Can a loving God ask His homosexual children to never marry? I get asked this fairly often, and think on the question a fair amount myself. I have watched many people lose their faith in God, or faith in their religion, over teachings related to homosexuality, and fully understand that it is a deep and sensitive issue for many. The issues are intensely personal, and there is no one answer that will satisfy everyone. There are, however, principles that help paint a bigger picture of God, principles that help shed some light on the subject and that should be part of our attempts to understand homosexuality and God.
Christian churches are generally not fully united in their teachings on homosexuality, adding perplexity to the issues. Teachings range from fully banning anything homosexual to fully embracing homosexuality. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a church that teaches it is not a sin to be homosexual, but that it is a sin to act on any homosexual desires. This teaching places homosexual members in a rough spot, as they have to live an abstinent life to be in good standing with the church. For many people, this is simply more than God would or should ask of His children, especially if they were born homosexual.
I fully recognize and respect that being asked to live an abstinent life is a tall order, one with very serious implications and losses for an individual. Because of the depth of what is asked of homosexual members, I too have pondered much of the same questions, and I have serious respect for anyone that is faithfully working to understand such issues themselves.
As I have pondered on the issues related to homosexuality, I have seen many other people struggling with very different issues. With my work and church service, I visit a lot of people, in their homes, at their office, or in public meeting places. Many are seriously struggling, and many of them are alone, internally isolated from others they interact with each day. Many carry deep pain, heartache, or confusion, and most would love to find peace, lasting happiness, or joy, but are unable to do so.
Here is a short list of the burdens I have personally seen people face, burdens that hit even the most faithful church members:
Seeing the breadth of the issues faced, and seeing the depth of the pain carried by countless individuals, I have wondered where God is in the lives of many people. I have wondered why trials are given, or allowed to occur, to different people. In addition to the above burdens, in my church service in various places across the United States I have seen other burdens related to sin. As an example, in a short list again, I have seen things such as:
Most of these people did not want these burdens, but felt driven by an overpowering force inside of them to act on things they knew would cause them issues later. For all of these people, the question is often the same, why would God give this to me?
The Mixing of Temporal and Spiritual
The story of Adam and Eve sets the foundation for much of Christianity. Adam and Eve partook, as the story goes, of some fruit that caused them to “fall”, or to receive a temporal nature that was subject to death. This meant that their physical bodies would be “fallen”, but would also be a house for their spiritual body that would live forever. In other words, Adam and Eve’s “fall” introduced what the scriptures refer to as the carnal, or natural, state into our physical bodies.
Christianity goes on to teach that God has a plan to redeem us from the fall, to enable us to become free of our fallen state, and to obtain an immortal physical body. This concept is understood by many, but the real rub comes in asking the question “why?” Why would God allow this? What purpose does it serve?
The answer is often along the lines of “because it is a test.” A test of what though? A test of cruelty where one is given homosexual desires but told to never act on it? A test hardcoding most men to view pornography, but telling them never to look at it? A test filling many people with depression, but telling them to find happiness anyways?
A Test to Become Like God
The answer to the question “a test of what” is that our test in this life is a test to become like God. To me, the key to understanding “like God” is the key to understanding many of these other issues. In other words, understanding “like God” helps to paint a picture broad enough to highlight principles at work in our temporal world.
What God Is Not
Sometimes, to understand what something is, it is helpful to first understand what it is not. God is not a being controlled by His passions. God does not act on selfish desires. God does not use His infinite power improperly, even to force me to do what He would like me to do. In other words, God is not a being controlled by any force except His own will.
Consider if you or I had infinite power in our “fallen” state. In a moment of intense anger, would that power be used to significantly harm or kill someone? Would a grudge fester into putting an eternal curse on somebody? Would physical attraction to another not similarly attracted result in them being forced to be with you? While some may laugh at such questions, it opens up a bigger picture to reflect on our times of weakness and what we might have done had we had the power to do so.
What God Is
God is the most free being in the Universe. God acts, and is not acted upon. God bridles all of His passions. God acts out of pure love, a love deep enough to allow me to learn and walk an individual path, one unique to me alone. God’s love is deep enough to recognize the value in physical suffering in a world with limited time attached to it in setting a proper course for an eternal life. In other words, God has the strongest, purest, most developed will in existence, a will powerful enough to submit to the most intense suffering possible when necessary to further eternal life.
God does not use His power for His own purposes. He uses His power for us. His work, His glory, is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” not to gratify the lusts or other forces that exist in the Universe. God is in control of the Universe because He is in control of Himself, and He is not subject to or accessible by the other powers that operate, entice, and encourage us down other paths.
Becoming Like God
To truly become like God then, we have to develop an exceptionally strong, an exceptionally pure, and an exceptionally good will. Our choices have to become the determining fate in our eternal existence. On this earth, all types of things will happen to us, and the “test” is in developing the willpower to respond in accordance with our eternal nature, in accordance with the God who gave us life.
Wills, in my mind, are created through the refinery of fire, affliction, and temptation. Wills are tested, or made stronger, when they encounter serious resistance, or serious pulls. Individual wills will simply never develop in a state free of heat, conflict, opposition, or friction. Just like metal is truly forged, tested, and tried in the midst of great heat, so too are our wills so created.
What is will truly? It is the power to resist. It is the power to act in the face of everything else saying no. It is the power to maintain individuality in the midst of our fully interconnected world. A truly developed will is the only way to be a free individual, and is the only way to become like God.
Consider the Savior Jesus Christ for a moment. Why is He a God? There are many reasons of course, but one is that He had the will to submit to the most suffering possible. When everything inside Him, including His physical DNA, screamed to stop and not drink the bitter cup, He maintained the power to act as an individual. He maintained His own destiny, and drank, sweating drops of blood from every pore.
King David, on the other hand, never developed the will to stay in control of himself. He had many wives, but when he saw the beauty of Bathsheba, He could not refrain. His will never developed enough to keep him in control of himself, and he became subject to the pulls of his temporal state, leading him to commit adultery and murder as he tried to cover up what he had done.
We came to this earth to become like God. In other words, we came with the hopes of developing and progressing to the point where we could enjoy “all that the Father hath,” which, in my mind, means His power and abilities. He wants us to become like Him, we are His children, but He knows that since His power can affect eternity itself, it can only go to those who have truly developed their wills to keep them free and independent of any other force in existence.
In other words, we can only become like God if we are truly in control of the forces that operate without and within us as individuals. Because of this, God asks us all to forego acting on serious passions and feelings. God asks men to avoid all pornography, even though their DNA may compel them to view it. God asks the depressed to keep working, the introverted or anxious to talk to others and share the Gospel, those attracted sexually to children to never act on those desires, those too socially awkward or simply without the right opportunity to ever find a marriage companion to stay fully abstinent, and those with a homosexual nature to never act on it.
Yes, sexuality is a massive force. It operates and pulls on all humans in existence. Lusts of all sorts operate powerfully on others as well, physical conditions severely limit or entice, and darkness may exist inside many individuals. Despite all of this, all are asked to “put off the natural man,” or are asked to truly develop their wills.
All of us have natural, carnal, or temporal conditions inside of us. Every day we must decide whether to embrace our natural, physical state, or to embrace our eternal, spiritual state. If we embrace our physical state, and let our passions and physical natures control us, we are relinquishing our eternal will, and our eternal potential, for a life that dies and ends. We do not rise in the resurrection with the temporal things of this life. Our physical DNA does not define us eternally. Rather, our spirit, created by our Eternal Father, defines us eternally.
The Opportunity to Become Like God
Our opportunity to become like God is our opportunity to experience the pulls, desires, and passions of everything that may keep us from becoming like Him. Yes, those things will be a part of us. Yes, God will ask us to forego acting on our temporal DNA and conditions and act instead in accordance with our eternal DNA found in our spirit.
This earth is our time to develop a will, a will that can withstand all forces that may be in existence, a will that makes us truly free from all constraints – so that every decision we make is the decision of our eternal being, the being that we will live with forever.
For all who are asked by God to remain abstinent in this life – whether homosexual, heterosexual with no opportunity to marry, or simply someone with a condition preventing them from maintaining a relationship – God’s request can be seen as a horrible thing preventing the experience of things of this life, or it can be seen as a significant opportunity to develop and forge an intensely strong will, a will commensurate with that of God’s. To truly reach the height of God, we must experience the depths of the pulls that operate at that level.
Christ forsook all on this earth, and he asks us to do the same, to forsake everything that is not in line with an eternal nature. He loves us enough to allow us to experience all of the forces that exist, and it is up to us to decide if there is a force we choose to succumb to, whether it be darkness, sexuality, greed, selfishness, or anything else, or whether we push back sufficiently to maintain our eternal freedom. This principle is the same for all of us, regardless of what force operates on us.
God doesn’t leave us alone in this process. He will push back with us, He will give us strength, and He will give us deep fulfillment and meaning as we strive to overcome the forces that exist in the Universe. God has walked this path Himself, and He knows of the depths it takes us to, as well as the heights that are ahead.
The big picture is simply that God knows maintaining our individual will and freedom is far more fulfilling, eternally, than acting on temporal natures that die when we do. Yes, God asks us to give up a lot, to give up even things that define us so significantly in this life, but He promises “all that He hath” to those that work to overcome, to build, and to forge a will of eternal character and significance.
Christ voluntarily experienced all of the possible pulls and forces in existence. When He said “not my will, but thine be done,” He was submitting all of his personal desires, pulls, and passions aside to pursue the path of eternal life. This process caused extreme suffering, suffering that was necessary to try, or temper, even the will of a God. God’s refusal to give in to any opposing force produced the will and power to truly overcome all things, as power can only come through choosing to turn away and resist the forces that be.
Similarly, in our walk on this earth, in order to gain spiritual power, we must be faced with enticing forces, forces that are so strong and prevalent and stem from within that the only way to not act on them is through our will alone. Our wills are tested, tried, and forged on our path to become like God, and this is so for all of us, regardless of sexuality, nationality, or personality.
So yes, teachings from the LDS Church put homosexuals in an extremely difficult spot. However, teachings from the LDS Church also put many others in an extremely difficult spot. When faced with this, we must decide whether we continue to push and develop our wills and capacity to be like God, to be free from the forces of the Universe, or whether we throw in the towel, so to speak, on eternity, and embrace the fleeting moments of our temporal existence.
From what I can see, homosexuality is not an anomaly and fits into God’s big picture, just like everything else in this life. The fact that Church teachings conflict with the human experience, with individuals, and with DNA even is evidence of a God in charge, a God interested in helping and loving us enough to become like Him, to become free from all known opposing forces in existence.
To truly be an individual, we have to have a pure will, and to have a pure will, we must be refined and tested by all opposing forces, as wills can only be created, built, and strengthened through our daily choices to resist. God’s power came through the exercise of His individual agency, or will, and our eternal potential and power comes the same way, through a daily walk of giving up the temporal for things of eternity.
God loves you, He loves me. He wants the best for us in eternity, and so He lets us experience all that the Universe offers, thereby enabling us to develop a strong will, a will like His, similarly forged in the furnace of affliction, conflict, and opposition present on this earth and inside each one of us.
Faith in God is often correlated with miraculous healings, and there are many scriptural and current day examples of such healings. Science, even, acknowledges that faith can play a role in the healing process. When sickness, injury, or turmoil occurs, many people petition God in prayer, believing that He has the power to make them whole. However, for many people, as the sickness, pain, or inner turmoil drags on, there seems to be no miraculous healing, and no good result from the efforts and hopes put forth in faith.
In today’s world, we often wonder where the scriptural miracles are. We often wonder why the blind are not blessed to see, the deaf are not blessed to hear, and the lame are not made to walk, as they were in Jesus’ time. Although we hear of some miracles in today’s time, we do not see them coming in the same way or to the same degree or magnitude as in Jesus’ time. This can cause us to question the reality of scriptural accounts, of religion, of faith, and of God.
In addition, we hear of stories in our times where people are suddenly cured from cancer, where they miraculously survived a car accident unscathed, or where their neighbor, Bishop, or friend showed up at just the right time – when they needed them most. However, for many who hear of these stories, their cancer may be getting worse, they may have lost a relative in a car accident, or no one showed up at the moment the person really needed them, or ever really showed up at all, for that matter. God, faith, and religion, just do not seem to work in the lives of many – many who exercised faith, but who were left alone and suffering still.
Why is it that faith can be miraculously responded to or, it seems at times, simply ignored? Why does the pain persist, the problems continue, and the loneliness deepen, even after believing and doing everything that can be done? Does God love others more than me? These are questions that tend to spin through the minds of those who pray in faith, yet still are left without.
I have been on both sides of things. I have had times when I was miraculously healed or my life was miraculously preserved. I have also had times where I have prayed and prayed for help or healing, and only felt the loneliness of silence from Heaven and the continued pain from the problems at hand. While I don’t know the answers to all of the questions surrounding these issues, I have learned a few things that have been helpful to me.
1. It often takes more faith to NOT be healed than it takes to be healed.
Being healed of something, quickly, takes believing in the fact that God has all power and can immediately influence what is wrong. This faith is a quick faith, one that expires with the healing and loss of pain, meaning that it does not often add much to one’s character, provide direction through hard times, or offer a spiritual food of long-term sustenance. It is like an ice cream cone given to a child, quickly eaten in happiness, but often forgotten the next day, with a request for even more ice cream then and each day after.
Not being healed, however, requires a very different type of faith. For those who are not healed, they still are faced with believing that God has all power, but that He is not exercising it for some reason. Because of this, they have to develop faith in a host of other things in addition to God’s power.
For example, those not healed have to develop faith that God still loves them, even though they are being allowed to suffer. They have to develop faith that God must know something that they don’t, that God has a bigger plan in mind. They have to develop faith that there is purpose in suffering. They have to develop faith in themselves that they are capable of surviving or enduring through the hardship. They have to develop faith, ultimately, that a loving God and suffering can co-exist together.
2. God has more in mind than we do.
God understands us, but we believe that we understand us too. We often think there are things that would make life better, whether it be health, friends, money, etc. Yet, God doesn’t give us these things, despite our faith. In addition, we want to relish in today, to be happy, free of pain, and enjoying life.
God knows what we need to become a better being eternally. God wants us to enjoy today, but never at the cost of eternity. God cares more about the eternal nature of our soul than He does about the physical pleasures and blessings of this world. God will withhold things that we petition for when He knows it is not what we need, and will, in kindness, withhold our petitions when we ask for things that may do us more harm than good in the eternities.
3. Our purpose in life is not to avoid pain and trials. It is to become like God.
Our physical existence often encourages us to work hard to avoid pain and suffering. However, our physical existence also readily shows us the weakness that comes as we avoid exertions and labor and our muscles and body weakens. We understand that exercise, or exertions, develop strength and power, but we pray in faith, hoping that we can avoid all such exertions at the spiritual level.
As part of our test on this earth, we will be faced with decisions where we get to see and determine what we want. Do we want to live easy and free of pain, or learn to pass through that which is required for ‘right’ to prevail? For God, His passage on this earth meant the most suffering ever known to any being as He atoned for us. For God, the status of ‘God’ means willingly traversing any suffering required, rather than avoiding suffering at all costs. If God were like us, He would have avoided the suffering and pain associated with the atonement, rather than submit, even though He possessed the full power to stop his own suffering at any time.
The only way for us to truly become like God is to develop faith in a bigger picture of existence. We have to learn that life is not just about us as individuals, it is about us as a human family. Eternal life comes as we learn to live for and serve others, and we can only develop that outlook when we can learn to see past the walls of our own existence.
Suffering ultimately helps us to develop faith in the fact that meaning and purpose is found outside of our own existence, a critical aspect in our pursuit of becoming like God. God chose to endure suffering for us, and our times of enduring something allows us to shape our inner selves into more Godlike selves, focusing more on others than on our own sufferings. In other words, our suffering helps us to see more of the world than we would otherwise see, which helps us develop a view from God’s perspective on life.
4. Trials are hills in life. They take us to new heights or depths, depending on our faith.
God is way above me. His ways, His life, His existence, is far above mine. If I take a path of no resistance, I will never reach the heights He has achieved. For me to follow in His footsteps, I need hills and mountains to climb to reach where He is located.
Our times of no healing are like hills and mountains. Of course, like any hill or mountain, these times can take us up or down. The same path that takes us up is the same path that can take us down, as the only way for something to have a path up is for it to have a path down as well. It just depends on the way we choose to travel. Thus, stumbling blocks for some can be stepping stones for others, just as times of no healing can greatly strengthen faith for some or can diminish or damage it significantly for others.
For times when we are not healed, we have to remember that we are now on an incline, and our faith becomes ever more essential to carry us up the incline closer to where God is. If the darkness is closing in, we may need to reach out in faith to others for help to continue climbing up the path together or otherwise work to reverse our course on the incline we are on. Ultimately, we have to ensure that even though we have not been healed, despite our faith, that our faith keeps us point towards God, so that we always move up, rather than down, the path of trial.
5. Healing can come through increased understanding.
Oftentimes, we plead for healing by pleading for the problem to disappear or be removed. Healing, to us, frequently means removal of pain. However, our real problems often run far deeper than our physical body, and some of the most extensive pain can be associated with questions of “Why?” or of not understanding where God is during the hard times.
When people can, for example, develop the right outlook on exercise, exercise can become rewarding, even in spite of some pain associated with it. For us, it is the same. As we pray in faith, for example, for healing from cancer, but the cancer continues, it can be useful to pray for understanding, to pray, in faith, for eyes to see what God sees, to understand what God understands about the situation.
As we obtain insights into ourselves, our situation, and others around us, we can find real healing, a deeper healing that surpasses the physical condition we are enduring at the time. Our souls long for understanding, and praying for knowledge and understanding can be a route to a more complete healing than simply praying for the physical ailment to disappear. When no healing comes, God is often willing to give us understanding about certain things, we just have to be willing to be open to receive the information.
6. True faith is about changing our own circumstances, about creating something new.
Ultimately, to pass our test on Earth and become like God, we have to develop the ability to create, to use our faith to develop and produce something that did not exist before. At some point, we have to be left on our own, so to speak, in a place where we cannot feel or see God, but where we feel may need Him or His miracles. These are our places that define us, that allow us to develop a critical type of faith – a faith that brings the power to create.
I know people who have lost hands, loved ones, eyesight, internal strength, and hearing. I know people who carry burdens of depression, anxiety, mental illness, and other issues. Amazingly, I see many of them take what they have left, and begin to create beauty and opportunity around them. Creation is a slow process, however, and so patience, endurance, fortitude, and a whole host of other wonderful traits come to the individuals as a result of this process as these individuals endure through their physical shortcomings.
Our times of not being healed leave us with a choice that will ripple through eternity – do we simply accept our fate and give up, or do we take the things we still have and create something with it? God wants us all to be creators like Him. God took His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane as He atoned for us and created something beautiful as He allowed us to repent and be forgiven. He took His suffering and death on the cross and created new life, new life for all of us. God, ultimately, takes all bad, and turns it into something beautiful and good. Amazingly, He gives us the opportunity and chance to do the same.
If God always healed us, or always gave us everything we wanted, we would never learn to create, and thus would never become like Him. In order for us to grow, develop, and progress, we have to learn how to shape our situations, determine our destiny, and move forward in faith to create a way or path that may not have existed before. This isn’t, of course, a path to get to Heaven, as Christ is the only one who can create that path, but rather is a path through life, through our time on this earth.
While God provides a way to Heaven, He does not provide a way through this life. We each get to determine and shape our path through this life. There will be miracles as we work and strive to get places, but there will never be enough miracles to make it so that we didn’t expend our own efforts in this life. In other words, the times of not being healed may need to last long enough to enable us to be agents unto ourselves, choosing our path and what we want in this life, and creating beauty and goodness along the way, no matter the depths of darkness reached.
Our brokenness serves to open us up to the power of our faith and will. If we are completely whole and always have the necessities of life, we would be able to rely on our body to accomplish things. However, if we are sick, broken, afflicted, or lacking a necessity of life, then our creativity, efforts, and faith have to kick in to survive, or, to say it another way, our soul has to take control for us to make it through. In other words, our weaknesses lead to giving us more strengths overall, strengths of the soul that bring us closer to God.
7. God loves us.
God truly loves us, even when we don’t feel it or feel alone. He allows us to become the master of our destiny by allowing us to be in places and situations where are bodies are broken so that we can develop the traits necessary to be like Him. God’s love causes Him to balance the interests of today against those of eternity, and to ensure the optimal conditions for our eternal progression.
Remember, it takes more faith to not be healed than it takes to be healed. If you have not been healed even after exercising faith, please recognize that God knows your level of faith, and that your broken or sick state may be due to a development of a greater form of eternal faith inside you – a faith that will develop into knowledge that God loves you regardless of where you find yourself, a faith that you are a child of God, a faith that gives you the power to create, shape, and change your circumstances, and a faith that you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
Due to the many facets of faith that can be developed through not being healed, God will not heal us in some way or another as we go through this life. Our faith has to transcend the ability to be healed to embrace a deeper, more expansive, and more sustaining faith – a faith that allows us to return to God. As we still work to develop true faith inside of us, a faith not dependent on our physical state, but one that feeds our eternal state of being, we may learn that we don’t need healing to succeed or enjoy life. Rather, our times of not being healed may end up being the times that brought our true self to the surface, and the times that most define us on our path back to God.
I wasn’t having the best year. In 2011, the economy was still fairly bad, I was unemployed, and I was trying hard to make sense of how I could best take care of my family. I can’t claim that there was anything about my situation that would set me apart from others in the same situation, as I’m sure many have been through the same thing. However, something significant happened to me during this time – I broke inside.
I have broken bones before. I have been in a cast to heal. With those, I was not embarrassed or ashamed, and nobody seemed to judge too harshly. Everyone could recognize the reality that a piece of me broke, and nobody wondered why I wasn’t just a little stronger and went without the cast.
However, in 2011, a substantial piece of me broke. It wasn’t a gradual process, it was a sudden break, just like with a bone, and pain reverberated throughout me when the piece broke. I don’t know what piece it was, other than that I could feel the brokenness in the area around my physical heart. I felt as if it placed a deep hole in the area of my heart, but my physical body was entirely unaffected by the broken piece. The piece was certainly part of another system of my body – a mental, emotional, or spiritual system (I don’t know which), a system that crashed with the loss of the piece.
I have always tried to be a spiritual person and pursue the things of God, as doing so had brought light to this area prior to this time. The light was good, and everything worked well when it was there. Religion had brought light here before, and I found purpose and identity in living my religion and in the light that attended my actions and beliefs. The light from my religion seemed to collect in that piece, and it served as the foundation for my emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
The light disappeared though when this piece of me broke, as the hole the broken piece left filled with what felt like darkness. The darkness was more than just the absence of light. It was so dark, it was tangible, it had substance, and was inside of me. I had never experienced anything like it before. With the light gone, most of my internal foundation was gone, including my purpose and identity as an individual.
For a very long time, I prayed and pleaded that the darkness would be removed, that I could have my foundation back, that I could find my sense of self again. I pleaded that I could even feel light again. Yet, the darkness remained, my prayers felt entirely ineffective, and, try as I might, I could not find the light that once served as the foundation for who I was. The pain, loss, and darkness continued, uninterrupted, with no end or sense of healing in sight. I was broken, with no idea how to put a cast around the broken piece and simply fix what broke.
This situation persisted for years, with me working to find answers or explanations for what took place. I have yet to understand exactly what happened, what piece of me broke, or what caused it to break, and this article does not attempt to offer facts on those things, although I may guess at some of them below. This article also is not meant to convey the impression that anything unique happened to me – as I have seen countless others get hit with similar experiences, many of which are far worse than mine. I only share this experience in order to share that something came out of this situation, and below are a few of the things I learned.
1. We Lack Language and Knowledge of What Makes Us Work. Science has done an impressive job of learning about the system in our body that can be seen, or our physical system. In my experience though, we are still in the ‘Dark Ages’ as it relates to understanding the pieces that make up our other systems – our mental, emotional, and spiritual systems. Many go so far as to claim that we have no spiritual system, rather than acknowledging the reality of experiences with spiritual matters of countless people the world over.
With these systems, we are beginning, as a society, to break some ground. There are medicines to take to deal with problems affecting certain aspects of our mental, emotional, and physical systems, and those help quite a few people. While these medicines are a step towards our understanding of these issues, I feel they still don’t answer the underlying question of how these systems work, what actually broke, or why it broke. Rather, they are similar to Ibuprofen, taken to deal with a headache, without ever knowing what caused the headache. Again, these are an important step forward, but much remains for us in understanding who we really are.
In my experience, some professionals, neighbors, friends, or others feel they know exactly what is wrong. Those that spoke up in my life had different opinions on my issue, but all, I could tell, entirely missed and did not understand what was taking place or how to fix it. Due to their confidence in their assessment, and my inability to find anyone that could relate to the feelings, I felt alone, strange, and out of place, as if I were having an experience entirely foreign to anyone on this Earth. Loneliness, I found, made the problem much worse.
In my experience, the loneliness comes from us not understanding the issues, not having language to discuss what we feel or experience, and not having people who recognize the reality of a broken heart, spirit, or soul.
Once I recognized this problem in my life, I also recognized the way to fix it – we must create the language, the conversation, and the understanding to comprehend and address the actual issues, and we develop this by sharing our experiences. Since we often feel the judgment of others, we are afraid to share, as we all want to be accepted by those around us. Ironically, many of those around us have broke in some way or another, but we view them as never having broken, simply because we never speak about the issues.
To be clear, there are ways to share things with others that will probably not end well. For example, when we still have deep pain from the brokenness inside, that pain can be added to by comments from those who do not understand. Or, if things are said in ways that are too alarming (posting to Facebook that you often feel like blowing a building up, for example), you may drive a wedge between you and others.
In my experience, in order to create conversation, it helps to recognize a few things. First, with sharing a ‘broken’ experience, using general terms helps to not create alarm, as the more specific the conversation gets, the more people do not understand how to handle the situation. So, instead of saying, as an example, that you often feel like blowing up buildings, be less specific, saying that you experience various impulses, many of which make no sense logically, but that are emotionally compelling, or something to that effect. With people that can be trusted who are close to you, it is possible to get more specific. However, it is always helpful to remember that we are just beginning to build the language, understanding, and knowledge, and so we have to start with a general foundation, rather than moving directly to the end results of where each broken piece leads. Once the foundation is in place, we can progress to more specific points and more specific understanding.
Second, people often say or do things that hurt, and it usually hurts because we sense that they don’t understand, or that they don’t care, or think we are weak. These times though can give us the greatest insight into a number of things, including how our condition appears to others, the lack of understanding present around a certain issue, or things the other person may be struggling with as well. If we choose to work to handle these situations in a productive way, we can ultimately gain more love and compassion as an individual.
For example, if someone tells me to just ‘man up’ and smile again, I can work (and I say work, as it takes time to get past the usual feelings of anger or pain that arise) to recognize that I just learned pieces of information missing to others, that I can now try to find a way to add to the foundation and language to be built. If someone perceives that I am simply a wimp, rather than broken, I then know that I need to work to build understanding around the reality of a broken piece inside, around the pieces that exist unseen inside of us, and around language sufficient to describe these things. In other words, the things that people say and do can direct what information is missing, and where I can add to the language and understanding needing to be built on these topics.
I do not know what broke inside of me. However, due to the fact that it so radically affected the light inside of me, and was in the same area as my physical heart, I will guess, for purposes of adding to the conversation and language, that my ‘spiritual heart’ broke that day in 2011. I guess this due to what I felt, but also due to what led up to the broken piece. By way of more background, before this piece broke, I had felt a strong spiritual prompting that I had acted on. The prompting took a lot of faith, and I had fought the prompting for some time before I finally decided to believe and act on it. I trusted that God would provide as I followed the prompting, as I trusted that it was what He wanted me to do.
However, things simply did not go as I had trusted they would. I took a large leap of faith at that time, and ended up, I felt, falling to and crashing at the bottom of the canyon I had tried to leap over. I couldn’t sense God’s hand protecting, lifting, or providing during that time, and my foundation of faith crumbled, as all that I could see was failure and the opposite result of what my faith said should have happened. Instead of making it to the other side as my faith had told me I would, I fell far short of the other side, and ended up far below and far off target. Falling (figuratively) didn’t immediately break the piece inside of me though. Rather, as I was at the bottom of the canyon working desperately to find where I went wrong, my piece inside me broke, and my faith and light disappeared.
Because of this, I call that piece of me my ‘spiritual heart’. When it broke, my faith, light, and trust in God fell into the hole left in its place, a hole full of darkness. I, of course, do not know for sure if we have a spiritual heart or not, or if that is even a factual description of what broke. I do know though that it accurately describes what I felt, so I offer it as an aid to the greater conversation as we try to create a language sufficient to convey understanding on these issues.
2. Any Piece of Us Can Break. We know that any piece of our physical body can break. Hearts can stop pumping, cells stop working, bones snap, and joints stop moving. We don’t judge a person as weak when they get cancer and simply tell them to change their attitude to make it all go away.
Just like our physical body can break, so too, I think, can any piece of our mental, emotional, and spiritual being. In order to facilitate the language and understanding around these issues, we must stop judging others. Instead of judging or offering advice, we can listen. We can recognize how much we have to learn ourselves when someone starts talking about something entirely foreign to us. Often, the most sure way to help a person heal is to simply listen and learn. Healing can come as hearts are knit together in unity, as opposed to being divided in judgment.
Recognizing that pieces actually can break will help us have compassion and understanding for others. Minds can break, hearts can break, and other pieces can too. In my mind, the beauty of our existence is that our body, and our systems, are good at healing broken pieces inside of them, provided that we recognize and address the issue.
Just as I am not defined by a broken elbow from High School wrestling, or a broken rib from crashing on my roller blades, so too am I not defined by a broken spiritual heart. That broken piece is not the sum total of my existence or of my value as a person. Rather, it is an experience, but it is not me. I have seen people involved in serious accidents where the majority of their body broke in some way or another, but those people also are more than their brokenness.
In other words, don’t judge yourself harshly when something breaks. Be willing to be patient for the piece to heal, and don’t demand that you, figuratively, walk before your leg bones have healed. Rather, it’s okay to seek understanding, guidance, and opinions from others, to find the answer for ourselves of what broke and how to heal it, recognizing, of course, that many times people will simply be wrong, but that we can get closer to the truth by weeding out the things that aren’t applicable to us.
3. Not Every ‘Hard Time’ Means that Something Broke. In working to create the language and understanding, probably the hardest thing to distinguish is when something is really broken, or when it is just injured or weak. For example, I started a new construction job years ago, and after the first day, I hurt everywhere. I had carried heavy things all that day, going from sitting for years at a desk in school to intense physical work outside. The pain was intense, and if anybody touched me it would cause me to about scream with pain. I hurt for quite some time before my body finally adjusted to the work.
However, the pain was not due to anything being broken. That pain was due to me stretching myself to a level I had not been at before, and was not conditioned to. With that pain, I had a choice – stop the job and return to my previous level, or continue pressing through the pain until my body adjusted and I could operate at the new level.
In other words, some emotional, mental, and spiritual pain comes as we try to reach a new level. Sometimes we experience the pain of progression and growth, and decide to ‘quit the job’, for lack of a better phrase, rather than pushing on to allow the progression and growth to occur.
As an example of weakness, instead of brokenness, at an emotional level, growing up I experienced anxiety speaking. I stuttered as a child, was teased for it, and have always had a quieter voice that is hard for people to hear. My anxiety would be especially high when asked to speak in front of others, and it was a very hard thing for me to do.
Ultimately, I found myself in law school, and I realized then that I had the opportunity to work and overcome my anxiety with speaking. I knew that my anxiety did not stem from a broken piece of me (as anxiety may for many others), but rather from a weak part of me. Once I realized that, I started to enroll in various moot court competitions, where I was required to speak in front of judges and others who attacked the things I said.
That experience was extremely difficult for me. In my first moot court experience, I appeared in front of a judge who had volunteered to help train us. My anxiety was through the roof, and when I stood up at the podium to address the judge, I couldn’t even talk. Due to the level of anxiety inside me, I stood there silent for almost a minute before finally being able to get any words out, but stumbled through the entire thing.
In the next competition, I appeared in front of a panel of three lawyers, all of whom were bent on letting us experience the wrath of a judge having a bad day in court. After my argument to them, the feedback I received was that it “sounded like I was talking to the Great Lakes with rocks in my mouth” (I was in Michigan at the time). These times were exceptionally hard to deal with, as my anxiety was still present and very high, and the first few experiences hadn’t helped at all, but had instead caused deep pain and more anxiety.
However, I decided to keep working, and I joined another competition with a classmate that had no anxiety in speaking. We practiced together, and he trained and encouraged me in many ways. In that competition, the two of us ended up winning the competition as the best lawyer team. After that, I was able to go on to a national competition and place in the top eight there.
I don’t feel that this experience is unfamiliar to most people, as many people have picked something to work on and pushed on through even when it was difficult or caused anxiety or other hardships for them. The point of this story is that when I had a weakness, exercising the weak points, rather than stopping the things that caused pain, made me stronger. However, when a piece of me broke, exercise of that piece only caused more problems, as it would be like trying to walk on a broken leg.
In other words, weaknesses need exercise, broken pieces need healing. In our effort to establish language and understanding, we have to discuss weaknesses, broken pieces, and the differences. Sometimes, it is extremely hard for us to know if something is weak and in pain, or broke and in pain, so we may have to change our opinion of the situation as we gain experience and understanding on our internal issues.
Ultimately, our effort to understand ourselves must include an honest assessment of what is weak inside of us and what is broke inside of us (if anything at the time). If we treat a weakness as a broken piece, it will remain weak, but if we treat a broken piece as a weakness, we will experience loss of self worth, pain, and discouragement as it will never heal due to all of our attempts to strengthen it, attempts that only keep the piece broken inside of us.
Most importantly, if we are interacting with a person who is experiencing issues with something, we have to learn how to help support them in a path of healing. If we push them to believing their issue is a weakness, or a broken piece, we can keep them from progressing if we push them to the wrong belief about what is inside them. This is why we must listen, care, and help. When I had a weakness and anxiety with speaking, I needed someone to encourage me to speak, not someone to tell me that I should just accept the fact I would never speak without anxiety. However, when I broke inside, I needed healing, followed by strengthening once the piece actually healed.
With our lack of understanding on these issues, we will get it wrong at times, both when we assess ourselves and when we assess others. However, as we discuss, listen, and learn, we will get past our mistakes and move to a better place, a place where we more fully understand our mental, emotional, and spiritual systems. If we forever fear making a mistake, we will never progress, so we must be willing to talk at appropriate times, listen, and learn, and ultimately, to say sorry when we find out we were wrong.
4. God Exists, Despite, Even, Our Weaknesses and Broken Pieces. Pain, I’ve discovered, makes it hard to feel God, especially when the pain is at an emotional, mental, or spiritual level. Pain can come from broken pieces, but usually the broken piece itself doesn’t cause the most pain. When emotional, mental, or spiritual pieces of us break, our faith in, and relationship with, God is often strained or broken as well, especially if we relied on these pieces previously to access God.
I have seen many people struggle with teachings in their religion, in accepting ways that God works, or in feeling that God cares about them as a person. People carry real pain associated with their experiences or their attempts to reach God. For me, I hurt a lot after taking a leap of faith – expecting to land safely on the other side of the top of the canyon – but finding myself crashing at the bottom of the canyon. My faith was crushed, my religion didn’t have answers for what happened, and I was unable to detect where I went wrong, causing me to feel that God had simply let me crash and burn and that I was not of value.
The hardest part of my ‘spiritual heart’ breaking was that it did not fit into the paradigm I had created of myself, life, and God. I was thrown into another reality, one where I could not sense or find God, purpose, or meaning. I was angry, hurt, and worked for a long time to decide if I still believed in God or not.
For me, I learned something critical through this time. When I took my leap of faith previously and acted on the prompting I had received, I had felt God’s Spirit say that everything would be okay if I took the leap. When I fell and crashed at the bottom of the canyon rather than landing on the other side as I thought I would, my faith immediately took a hit because things didn’t turn out like I had had faith they would. The key I learned was that my faith took a hit because, ultimately, I was demanding that God’s promise of “okay” match my understanding of “okay”.
In other words, my faith took a hit because I had my own interpretation of what God’s promise meant, and my interpretation was wrong. When I was promised that things would be “okay”, God never said I would make it to the other side without crashing at the bottom of the canyon, even though that is what I decided that promise meant. My faith crashed and burned at that time because my faith was in what I wanted God’s promise to mean, not in what His promise actually meant. God knew that I could make it to the other side, one day, and that even though things would hurt and a piece of me would break, I would still be okay. With my lack of patience and demand for things now, I simply wanted to skip over the canyon of life in one leap.
Looking back, I can see that things have been “okay”. My broken pieces are slowly healing, my kids were fed, clothed, and helped by many others during this time, others who cared, who brought Christmas presents when we had no money, and who helped in every way they could. In other words, I didn’t die, even though I fell so far.
More importantly though, I found many at the bottom of the canyon. Some may have slipped and fallen there, some may have been pushed there by others, some may have tried to jump across and not made it, like me. Many, though, were there, having moved forward in faith on a path they didn’t understand, only to find themselves having slowly descended down the one wall of the canyon, with every step forward in faith feeling like it moved them into more darkness. However, regardless of how we got there, we were there, and our choice became to stay down there suffering and broken, or try to find a way to climb up and get back to the light above.
What I learned about God is that God is there, whether in the light above, or the darkness beneath. Our journey through the darkness helps us, if we choose, to find God in places we never knew He would be. Our journey through the darkness helps us understand so much more about life, so much more about others, and so much about who we really are, as we are made of so many pieces unseen to the human eye. I would never have the ability to describe something invisible that always worked perfectly. Rather, to gain understanding of our invisible or unseen systems, they have to break for us to know that something is there, for us to be able to describe and identify integral pieces that make up who we are.
My brokenness seared into me the reality of darkness, pain, and suffering. Again, so many others have suffered much more than I did, but even my taste of it let me know the intense reality of these things. Previous to this experience, I had gained a testimony of and partial familiarity with light, but now I was gaining an intense testimony of and familiarity with darkness.
As I reflected on the fact that I could feel and experience darkness, I tried to understand why these mists of darkness would come into my life. While I still don’t know all of the reasons, I did find a number of reasons that the darkness came into my life. First, it helped me understand more of who I really was. When I readily felt and sensed light, making the ‘right’ decision was easy because I could sense God looking over my shoulder. When I lost the ability to sense Him, I suddenly was tempted by many things that had never appealed to me before, and as I watched how I responded to the different temptations, I learned a lot about where my desires and values truly were as an individual.
Second, having a piece break inside of me opened me up to receive a new piece, a better piece, one from Heaven even. In the scriptures, it speaks of being “reborn” and of offering up a “broken heart and contrite spirit.” Now, I certainly can’t say that I have done either of these, but the principles of these scriptures teach that we can give our broken pieces to God – the mortal, weak, and not perfect pieces of us – and receive a new piece back, a piece that helps us to be “reborn”. For me, the only way for me to have room enough to receive something new would be to clean out the old. While I am still working on clearing out everything I need to to receive a new piece and be “reborn” with better pieces, I recognize that this was an important step along the path for me.
Third, the darkness and brokenness caused me to better understand and be more compassionate to others. It is often hard to relate to someone that appears to be full of light or that has everything going well for them in life. However, it is much easier to relate with those who are struggling, broken, or hurt as we are. Somehow the journey through darkness can cause us to open our hearts and minds to others. Of course, Satan still tries to isolate us in the darkness to keep us forever lost there, but if we resist that and reach out in compassion to others, we find our way out of the darkness as we receive help from and give help to those around us.
To me, the darkness is something that we get through only if we join together in unity. As I’ve gone through this experience, I have learned that true and lasting happiness only comes as we establish meaningful interactions with and relationships with others. As an example, I can eat some tasty food by myself and enjoy the taste, but the satisfaction of eating disappears as soon as the food does. However, if I eat the same food with others who enjoy it as well, the satisfaction of eating with the other people continues on as part of me.
I believe God allows us to be weak and broken to help us overcome our biggest obstacle to eternal happiness – ourselves. We all want to do things ourselves, we want to be strong enough for life, we don’t want to let others help us or even know that we are struggling. We don’t want to trust, we don’t want to connect, as we fear the pain of broken trusts, broken connections, and unmet expectations or hopes with others. God’s way though is one of unity, connecting, and family. His way was not meant to be forged alone. Heaven isn’t a place where we seclude ourselves in mansions and never see another living soul. Heaven is Heaven because we are part of a bigger family there, because we are there with others, because we have a place, and give others a place too.
For me, if I never would have broke, I would have been too prideful to ever reach out to or connect with others as I should. For me to learn to be like I need to in Heaven, I need to learn how to receive help, how to open up and experience the happiness that comes through friendship, through connecting with others. Due to my pride and unwillingness to connect with others as I should, I walked a broken path, the only one where I would fall too low to pick myself back up without the help of others. This was God acting, in mercy, to help me correct the problems with myself, problems that would make it impossible for me to enjoy what really brings eternal happiness – meaningful relations with others.
I know that many people don’t have a lot of meaningful connections in their lives, and I don’t sense that life is super full of them for most people. Sometimes when we are alone in the darkness, we will remain there, as people cannot see us in the darkness. They can’t see our hearts, our brokenness, fears, or weaknesses, as it is all invisible to them. However, they can hear us.
When we are alone in the darkness, the key is to speak up, to call out, to talk and start the discussion. Even though others cannot see what is inside of us, or see us sitting in the darkness, they can hear us, and if we are stuck there alone, we need to talk, as sound travels through the darkness. Satan pressures us to not speak up, to not discuss our situation, as he knows that by doing so, we will remain lost and unseen at the bottom of the canyon, unaware to those even who are also passing by at the bottom in the darkness.
In other words, starting the conversation is how we find others where we are at. God wants us to learn to talk, to identify our pieces inside, and to, ultimately, find friendship and meaningful connections. One caveat, of course, is that there are people in the darkness who have different goals than us, and we cannot simply hitch a ride with anyone that comes along. We have to make sure that their goal is the same as ours, and we should only travel with those who are committed to regaining the top of the canyon, as opposed to those who stopped believing that there was a top to the canyon.
Another benefit to me from the darkness was that when I lost the piece that I usually used to connect with God, the only way for me to connect was to find Him in places I hadn’t relied on before. Scriptures, prophets, church, and prayer became especially important for me. While many things were discussed at church that did not resonate with my situation, I came to learn they were discussing the ‘ideals’, or the conditions at the top of the canyon. In other words, they were discussing things that could give me hope, if I chose to recognize them as something tangible that could come as I worked to heal.
Even when teachings or practices conflicted with how I felt inside, I learned that those conflicts showed me areas where I didn’t understand, areas where I was weak or broken, and areas where I may be putting what I wanted over what God wanted for me. Conflicts came due to me pursuing my own expectations and desires, instead of seeking to see what God had for me. However, as I worked through the darkness, the questions, the pains, and the discouragement, I found myself part of the way up the canyon, working to regain the top above.
Ultimately, the thing I learned about God is that following Him is a journey, a journey through the darkness, wildernesses, canyons, and abysses of life. In this journey, we meet others, we gain understanding and compassion, and ultimately, we gain the ability to become like God, who passed through the full depths of all bad that can possibly exist as He atoned for us. His canyon was far deeper than all of ours combined, and it was an essential part of His path as a God. Life is a journey, not an event, and brokenness is part of the journey.
God exists, even though I broke. God exists, even though there is darkness. As I continue to try and climb out of the canyon I fell into, I find my life and understanding deepened and strengthened by my crash at the bottom of the canyon. I find others at the bottom of the canyon, and am able to find real meaning in life by connecting with others who may be struggling or broken as well. Just as it isn’t fun to eat food by ourselves, but is much more enjoyable with friends or family, so too the real joys in life come through honestly connecting with another person. The happiest moments in life are never when we are by ourselves, they are always when we are with and connecting to others. We can connect by listening to and seeking to understand the experiences of others.
In my experience, by beginning a conversation and understanding around broken and weak things, we are beginning to develop the vocabulary and understanding necessary to truly connect with a person, to be found in the dark moments of life, and to find others in their dark places. As we share our experiences in appropriate ways and at appropriate times, we can gain the ability to connect at far deeper levels, allowing us thereby to experience joy at a deeper level.
Connecting to others takes time. Connecting to God takes time. For us to truly connect, we have to get through all of the pieces inside of us to reach our true core, to find who and what we truly are. Brokenness and weakness open two paths for us - 1. A path to finding out more about our desires, expectations, individuality, and ultimately, to finding God and meaningful connections with others, or 2. A path to despair, if we choose to stay at the bottom of the canyon.
It’s okay that life isn't always like the ideal at the top of the canyon. The ideal can only bring happiness and joy when we gain an understanding of why the ideal is the ideal, and we only gain that understanding through walking a broken road. In life, we are forced to walk some road, as life doesn’t allow us to sit still. If we have to walk and work, we can at least walk and work towards gaining the ideals in our lives, even if we don’t have them right now. As I sat at the bottom of the canyon deciding what to do with my broken life, I realized I could give up and forever remain broken, or I could turn to God, gain a better understanding of Him, and start working towards the ideals He reveals at the top of the canyon, just on the other side from where I began my journey.
God can heal all brokenness, weakness, and injury. Just as my broken bones didn’t heal overnight with fervent prayer, so too my broken spiritual heart didn’t heal overnight with fervent prayer. However, fervent prayer opened my eyes to the paths I could be on, and helped me crawl along the path, or open up to reach out to others and ask for help when I was at a place I could not pass myself. Sometimes, others passed me by, not understanding or taking my request for help, but as I kept trying and working at developing the ability to explain that I was broken, I found more people willing and able to help.
Ultimately, I feel our broken times are the darkest because they are the times at which we feel unable to reach out and find help because we feel we aren’t allowed to talk or explain what we need. We can change this though, by developing the language, the understanding, and the ability to connect with others and work together towards the same ideal – regaining the light and beauty at the top of the canyon of life.
While I am still on my path back to the light, I have hope and confidence that the light and beauty of life is available to us all, as we work together to cross the streams, climb the rocks and cliffs, and endure the journey back to the light and beauty that comes from working together and truly connecting with God and those around us as brokenness leads to unity, and unity leads to life.
It’s no wonder that this election has such horrible choices for President when America’s current politics are founded on a lie. If you take a moment to examine the foundation of what drives all politics in America, it should, in practice, come down to the people of America. The people of America should drive the politics, as the people of America have the power to vote, not only for President, but for many government offices.
However, when I talk to anyone about this election, they feel powerless, and feel that the politics are driving them. Most are hopelessly trying to decide if America is more likely to survive a presidency under the Democrat or Republican ticket. I have only met a handful of people who actually like one of the two main current candidates. Instead, most despise both candidates, but feel compelled to vote for one of them. Somehow, the two ruling parties are driving the American people, as opposed to the people driving the parties, and we are falling into line with the ruling parties.
There is a simple way this works. If you wanted to control the people of America, instead of having them control you, just spread the ‘Great Lie’. The Great Lie is manifest in various forms – in stating a vote for a third party is a vote for the candidate you do not like, in stating that you have no power or voice in the Federal election, in stating that you have to vote for the one candidate over the other to at least stop the worst one from getting in, in stating that there is no viable third party, etc.
The Great Lie though, in whatever form it comes in, is really a manipulation of truth, and is entirely built on false perceptions. Sadly, we have become manipulated enough that our vote is no longer based on what we view as right, but instead is based on our perception of others minds and eventual actions, or, in other words, is based on what we think others will think and do. Because we think others like candidates, or will eventually vote for candidates even though they do not like them, we then think we have to do the same.
Let’s play this out for a minute though. Say I am trying to decide who to vote for. As I am an average Joe, instead of looking at actual merit and what I would like to see in a candidate, I first (whether consciously or subconsciously), look around at my options based on what I think others are thinking. As always, because of the extent of the Great Lie, this results in only two options in my head, and I begin trying to decide between them.
Now add person Two, Three and Four into this example though. Person Two is looking at me, trying to decide what the actual options are for this election. Person Two sees me, thinks I must be voting for one of the two candidates, and also limits her selection to the two candidates. Amazingly though, I thought Person Two was only going to vote for one of the two candidates. We both reached the same result based on a guess of what we though the other would do, not realizing that we were only acting because both of us thought something about the other.
Add in Persons Three and Four though, both friends I respect, who I had also looked at to see their views, and who had in turn looked at me to see mine. All of us, as we played this game, based our choices on what we thought the others were thinking, and on what we thought the others would do in the end. These perceptions are the Great Lie, as they are based on a future that does not have to be, nor on a future that either of us even wants, yet that we feel compelled to embrace, simply because we all look at each other and accept a reality driven by what we think we all think. The Great Lie is the foundation upon which we currently base our politics, and upon which we let the ruling parties drive us, instead of us drive them.
Our current politics manipulates us and perpetuates the Great Lie, as the Democrats and Republicans only stay in power if we continue to believe they are the only options. And, they are the only options, so long as we are convinced that everyone else will only vote for them, because everyone else is convinced that we will vote for them. In other words, we are a part of the Great Lie, as we are part of the people that others view to determine what the choices are for any given election.
In this election, it has never been so obvious as to the depth and extent of the Great Lie. Only the minority of America actually likes the two candidates, yet the majority is still set to vote for them, all because of a circular guessing game, with me and Person Two both internally despising the current situation, but still going along with it because we look at each other and feel compelled to vote for one of the two bad choices because I think Person Two will, but Person Two only will because she thinks I will.
However, if I actually let Person Two (and Three, and Four), know that I was not voting for one of the two bad choices, but was instead voting for a third party candidate, the Great Lie would be weakened. I would remove myself as a pawn of the two ruling parties because people would know how I am voting, and the circular decision making process would be defeated, at least for those that included me in their calculation.
While this election has produced two horrible choices for President, it has opened our eyes to the depth and extent that we internalize the Great Lie inside of us. If America is ever to stop sliding backwards politically, we must stop basing our votes on what we think others think. I view what we think as being similar to a trailer being backed up. It is possible to think fairly well at times, just as it is possible to back a trailer up fairly well. Sometimes, the process is complicated and takes a lot of effort, but usually we can get to a certain point with enough effort and attempts to back up.
There is a point though that thinking entirely breaks down, just as there is a point at which backing a trailer up entirely breaks down. It is impossible to back up two trailers connected to each other with any meaningful precision. No matter the skill involved, or the practice, or the precision of backing up just one trailer, a person cannot back up two trailers and have both end at a designated point in an orderly line. Similarly, no matter the skill at which a person can think, no person can ever accurately identify truth by thinking about what others think. This is so because those same people are thinking about what you think, and the result is that both of us act in a way that internally we do not want to, but that we think is required due to what we thought the other person would or wanted to do.
The current political situation in America is the result of us embracing the attempt to back up two trailers at once – or to base our actions on what we think others think – and the result has been disastrous, just as backing up two trailers would be. Yet, despite how bad it is, we continue trying to think about what others think, and others try to continue thinking about what we think. It is simply a vicious cycle that spirals downward, leading to the current two bad choices for President.
For this reason, I am letting you know that I am voting third party. I am consciously refusing to be a part of the Great Lie. I simply cannot base my decisions on what I think you think, as I can guarantee you that I am wrong in what I think you think. I invite you as well to refuse to be part of the Great Lie. Don’t base your decisions off of what you think others think the choices are – vote based on what you really feel or believe inside. If you feel a third party candidate is closer to what you want for America than the two candidates are (I think :) that the majority of America will be more aligned with a third party candidate), then vote for that third party candidate, and let others know your values and eventual actions so that the Great Lie is weakened.
The Great Lie gets defeated if we actually act on principal, rather than our perception of others who are voting. The Great Lie gets defeated when we let others know that we don’t subscribe to it, and that we are willing to vote based on our conscience. Instead of talking about the two candidates nobody likes, let’s talk about our values, ideals, and candidates that reflect those ideals. If we stop talking about the candidates none of us like, they lose their power, as we are their cheapest form of advertising, and their cheapest form of perpetuating the Great Lie.
Don’t worry as well if the Great Lie is not broken all at once. If this election gets us closer to breaking the Great Lie, then it has served a good purpose. By returning to a proper foundation of politics – one based on values, merit, and character – we can take back power we gave to the two parties when we subscribed to the Great Lie. And, for each one of us that leaves the Great Lie, the Great Lie becomes that much weaker, causing more people to leave it as well. Eventually, as we leave the Great Lie and let others know, we are helping to return America to a proper foundation.
A simple way to leave the Great Lie is to post a picture on social media that you are voting for a third party, such as this one (it's not copyrighted, so go ahead and use it). For everyone that sees it, the Great Lie will be that much weaker. There are plenty of other ways to defeat the Great Lie, but the methods all come down to two principles. 1. Do not act based on what you think others think. 2. Let others know what you really think and will do politically, so that they are not guessing falsely at what you will actually do. In other words, act on what we feel inside. We must let others know what we feel inside by speaking up for our values, and acting accordingly. We have good people in America with good values. Let those values drive the elections, not the elections drive American values.
This election, vote based on what you think, not on what you think others think. It’s time that we let go of the Great Lie, and bring power back from the parties to where it should be with the people.
I’ve always believed and hoped that God answers prayers. I have prayed many times in my life, and have received answers and guidance at various times. However, I have also prayed at other times, and have not received the items I earnestly sought for. Many of my prayers have simply resulted in silence and more questions and doubts rather than in guidance, inspiration, or clarity.
I don’t imagine that my experience is much different than those around me. Some might feel that all of their prayers are answered, some may feel that their prayers are never answered, while many may get some answers and some silence. Due to the number of prayers I have offered resulting in no answer, I have had a lot of opportunity to reflect on what is taking place. This time to reflect taught me a few things about myself, my faith, and errors present in my own heart.
I finished law school in May of 2010, right as the legal industry was hitting rock bottom following the recession. Tens of thousands of attorneys were unemployed across the country, and it was virtually impossible to find work. I had a wife and three young children to support, and prayed extensively that God would give me a job.
Time continued to drag on. My prayers remained unanswered. No job, no money, and no way to support my family. I prayed at great lengths, over and over, trying to exhibit faith or something else to try to ‘qualify’ for help or an answer. I felt that the more earnestly I prayed, the more faith I was exhibiting. Yet, nothing that I prayed for came.
During this time I was upset. I had tried to do everything I had been instructed by the world and by previous promptings. I had worked very hard and performed well during law school, and had done each item recommended to make me more employable or valuable. I had worked at internships, done Moot Court Competitions, participated in the International Law Journal, and otherwise involved myself trying to increase my resume.
Internally during this time, things grew darker and darker. My prayers felt as if they never made it outside the walls of the room I was in. My life wasn’t improving and things were falling apart. It hurt a lot that I couldn’t find God anywhere during this time.
The darker things got due to unemployment and other things taking place at the time, the more insistent I became in my prayers, almost demanding that God change things or lift me and my family out of the situation. All of these prayers, petitions, and demands remained unanswered, and I eventually reached the point where I had to decide if I still believed in God, or if my past beliefs had been false for some reason.
As I wasn’t employed, I spent significant time thinking through the consequences of the paths before me. I realized then that I certainly believed in the eternal nature of the soul, and that I would only ever be fulfilled pursuing a path that at least professed a method of providing for our souls in the next life.
As I continued to reflect on the consequences of the paths before me, I saw that the only path that involved eternal hope was one with God in it. Nothing else the world could offer provided anything that extended beyond this life. I decided then to give God another try, but somehow, my heart had been slightly changed during this time. Somehow, probably since I felt I had little left to lose at that point, I humbled myself and stopped asking for what I wanted, I started asking to be open to what God had for me. My thought process begrudgingly changed to “if I’m not supposed to work, at least let me know what I am supposed to do.”
When my heart slowly changed, my prayers did too, and I started getting answers, slowly, to my prayers. It was, and still is, a slow, painful process as there is so much darkness inside to work through, but I am learning something that I should have known before but never fully appreciated. I can’t put more faith in what I think I need than in what God knows I need.
In other words, when I was praying I had a predetermined solution in mind. In my exalted view of myself, I was convinced that I knew – I thought I knew what I needed, what the solution should be, and was convinced that I knew enough to tell God how to solve my problems. However, the only faith I was exercising was faith in my ability to see and understand. I was not putting faith in God’s ability to see or understand what was best for me.
I learned then that God loves me enough to tell me no. He loves me enough to withhold something that I desperately want in order to teach me, to train me, and to refine me. He loves me enough to let my pride and confidence in my ability to see and understand ‘everything’ cause me serious internal conflict. In other words, the fact that my prayers remained unanswered was proof itself that God truly loved me, as He wasn’t going to give me that which I didn’t truly need.
God did not simply remove my problems even though I begged Him to. I learned that prayers aren’t a way for us to impose our will over God’s will. I still find myself doing this all of the time, simply letting God know the way things should be, and when I do, my prayers remain unanswered.
However, when I explain to God everything that I can see, everything that I can understand, and then tell Him based on that, this is what I think needs to happen, He is kind. He probably smiles at what I am missing still, but then, if I follow up with “and please teach me what I am missing still,” or “not my will but Thine be done,” then thoughts start come into my mind, sometimes slowly, sometimes more clearly. I learn, line upon line. I see, as the fog slowly dissipates. Rarely do I get everything at once, but I at least get something, and as I continue to seek to understand what I am missing, the light continues to grow.
I learned that for my prayers to be answered, I have to have faith in God’s omnipotence, not faith in my ‘omnipotence’. When I demand that things be a certain way, internally I am telling God that I know more than He does, and prayer and life simply don’t work that way. However, when I trust that God can see things I can’t, when I humble myself and recognize that I might need to change, then my prayers become more of a two-way communication.
In addition, I learned that I have to work for things. God is a God of progression, and He never stops working for our benefit. If I am to become like God and fulfill the purpose of this life, I have to learn how to work. I have to learn how to create. I have to learn how to overcome an obstacle in front of me. In essence, I have to learn what faith really entails.
Faith is belief coupled with actions. Praying in faith means that I open my heart to God in belief, with a willingness to work to accomplish what I am told. To me, I learned that faith didn’t mean simply asking, demanding, or repeatedly praying. Rather, faith meant being willing to work to obtain what I was asking for. When I lacked the willingness to work for what I prayed for, I lacked faith.
Even though I am beginning to see that I have to be willing to work, my prayers still often beg for God to simply solve the problem for me. Instead of seeking ways to improve myself while I was unemployed, I simply asked God to drop a job in my lap. Instead of enjoying the ‘forced’ time with my family, I complained about not having what I wanted. However, when I make myself ready and willing to work, my prayers are answered far more than when I simply ask God to magically change things, as the willingness to work is an essential component of faith.
A few examples throughout my life highlight some of these points. When I was in high school, I decided to wrestle. I joined the team as a sophomore with no experience, but I learned quickly and ended up providing decent competition by the end of the season. When my junior year began, I had registered for a lot of AP classes to help me get a little ahead in my future college work, and I had a lot of homework. I knew it was important to get the homework done, pass the AP classes and tests, and keep good grades so that I could get a scholarship, but I wanted to wrestle. My coach had set my hopes high that I would make it to State that year, and when the season began I secured the varsity spot for my weight class.
However, I quickly realized that if I wrestled, I wouldn’t have time to do my homework to a sufficient degree and wrestle. Recognizing the conflict, I did what I thought a person that believed in God’s power and loved wrestling would do, I knelt down and prayed for a miracle. I prayed that God would somehow, in His miraculous ways, give me enough time to get my homework done. I told Him I was wrestling, that I was going to do well, and because of that, I needed additional time somehow to get to my other obligations in life.
Maybe due to my young age, or maybe due to my mother always praying for me, or something else, God answered that prayer in a merciful but powerful way. I went to my first meet quite behind in my homework, and something told me that I shouldn’t be there wrestling. I ignored the feeling though, and wrote it off as nervousness for my first meet that season. The first match started, and internally I knew that I was doing something wrong, but I persisted. Two minutes into the match, my opponent and I ended up tripping and falling in a unique manner, and I tore the ligament in my elbow.
This ligament tear ended my entire wrestling season. As I sat in a sling, I thought of all of the things I was missing out on. I wouldn’t be able to wrestle, lift weights, play any sports, or otherwise have much fun for quite some time. At some point, I finally thought “What will I do with all of my time?”, to which God gently whispered “Homework.”
That wrestling experience taught me a lot of things. I learned that I had already made up my mind before even praying, and I was simply asking God to support me in the path that I chose. I didn’t ask Him what path I should pursue, I simply decided that wrestling was best for me. I exercised faith in my ‘omnipotence’ and wasn’t humble enough to listen to what God wanted for me. I was so stubborn that I ignored the warnings, and I ended up breaking an arm and tearing a ligament, all because I was certain of what I wanted.
Also, I asked God to give me something that I could do for myself. I asked Him for more time, so that I could fit everything I wanted in to my life. However, I could have more time, if I simply was willing to give up the things that I wanted. It was wrong of me to ask God for something that I could do for myself, as there is great value and growth associated with sacrifice.
Now, fast forward to this last winter. It has been one where someone in my house is sick almost every day. Nothing too serious, but plenty of colds and the normal winter sickness. I have prayed a lot that the sickness will simply be taken from our house, and yet it hasn’t. During this time of praying though, I have repeatedly ignored a prompting to go out jogging and take the kids with me. After months of praying that God would simply give me health, I finally realized that God gave me the tools to have health, and that He expected me to use them. He wasn’t going to simply take away my sickness that was the result of my not exercising, but He was willing to give me the opportunity to exercise with my kids so that we could be healthy. Yes, I learned that I need to exercise, or work, to have the health, or things, I have prayed for.
In addition to health, I had been praying for answers about my children over the last year or so, as certain ones were struggling with different things. I was asking God to change them, to make things better for them, to remove the problems, etc. But, things kept getting worse. They weren’t improving, and my prayers weren’t helping.
At some point in this process, I finally became desperate enough to ask the question that I should have asked from the beginning. I asked what I could do for them. I still couldn’t detect any specific answer to this question, but I knew somehow that an answer had been given. I tried to figure out why I couldn’t discern the answer even though I could tell it was present.
The answer to that, I eventually learned, was that I internally was blocking the answer because it meant I would need to change in a significant way. The answer to what I could do for my children was to get them a dog. Anyone that knows me well knows how much I despised dogs while growing up. I had no love for them, and always swore that I would never have a dog when I grew up.
However, God was telling me that my children needed a dog, and I wasn’t processing the answer because I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to hear that my kids needed a dog. I wanted something like “buy them more hamburgers,” “take them on a date,” “go camping more,” or something fun like that. I certainly wasn’t looking for something though that would require me to change and give up a significant portion of who I considered myself to be.
Because I was resistant to change, the answer never came through. Because I wanted to continue on and be who I wanted to be, my prayers remained unanswered. Once I decided to let go of my pride and let go of my commitment to never have a dog, the answers became accessible and clear. I had to work to change, a lot, to let a dog into our home. I wasn’t a dog person, but when I finally was humble enough to recognize that I could be a better person by following what God had for me, I was able to start the work of changing my heart, which, for me, is a long process as I tend to be rather stubborn.
In sum, my unanswered prayers taught me that I need to trust in what God can see, not in what I see or feel, that I need to sacrifice things of value to me to obtain what God has to give, that I need to be willing to work rather than just pray for a miracle, and that I need to realize that my distance from God isn’t a problem with God, it is a problem with me that I need to be willing to fix.
In other words, I learned that prayer is about changing me. Prayer isn’t to change everything around me to make it fit my preferences. When I’m not willing to change or admit that God sees more than I do, I don’t get any answers, and my prayers are of no effect. When I’m not willing to exercise true faith by being willing to act on what I’m told, my prayers aren’t as effective as they could be.
I think of this often as I listen to people describe the darkness or confusion they may feel. Many of us struggle understanding everything that takes place in this world, that takes place in our church, or that takes place in our own lives or the lives of others. Too often, we blame the world, the church, others, or even God for things, and we lose faith. Too little, I learn over and over again, do I seek to recognize how my own blindness, my own desires, or my own problems cause the silence to exist or cause my prayers to remain ineffective.
If you have prayed and not received an answer, please consider that maybe, just maybe, there is something amiss in your heart. Maybe you are, like me, in effect, telling God the way things should be, maybe you are, like me, wanting God to give you something you could work for yourself, maybe you are, like me, not willing to change parts of who you are in order to get what you are asking God to simply give you. I have learned that God answers, but we only receive as we fine tune who we are inside to accept what He has to offer us.
Our answers to our prayers and questions often aren’t the things we want to hear. If we want a testimony of the scriptures, we have to be willing to change a lot about our life. If we want health, we have to be willing to live a healthy lifestyle. If we want answers, we have to be willing to set aside our own thoughts, feelings, knowledge, and desires to receive the items that God has for us.
The main thing that my unanswered prayers have taught me is that I’m imperfect. God is always there, but He loves me enough to withhold the things from me that detract from my eternal progression until I have changed myself enough to follow the path that He has for me. Hopefully, I can learn to focus on changing myself first so that I can avoid the broken arms, darkness, and pain associated with setting my heart so much on the things that I want as opposed to being willing to receive the things that God has for me.
Occasionally, I see comments or articles circulate decrying the ‘absurdity’ of a belief in a Supreme Creator, or a God. It is often surprising to see how vicious many people can be, and how hard they try to belittle a belief in a Supreme Being, or a God, who created the Universe. Since I believe in a God who created all things, I wanted to take a minute to respond to such arguments.
I always like to ask the question “Do buildings build themselves?” No, people say, certainly not. “Why not?” I ask. At this point people look at me as if I’m stupid. “Because a building is not natural” they almost invariably reply, or “it can’t”, “it isn’t alive,” etc. To most people, trees, animals, and humans are ‘natural,’ but buildings are not, hence a human can exist without a builder, they argue, since it is ‘natural’, but a building cannot.
What does “natural” really mean? In reality, it only means something that exists outside of “human” design. What, though, is really “natural” about the “natural” things on the earth? Why do our bodies have ten fingers, two eyes, two legs, etc.? What is “natural” about mountains, trees, or animals? It’s simply that we don’t know how they were created, that they existed before us, and that we can’t make them.
Buildings typically have plumbing, electricity, and other items intricately worked throughout their walls. However, a building pales in comparison to the complexity of the human body. Why don’t buildings with plumbing and electricity simply evolve, as the more complex human body supposedly did? Why doesn’t evolution produce a building, a parking lot, or a car?
Consider robots for a moment. Robotics is a rapidly developing field, with powerful robots that can do many things. Think a few years ahead to the point when we have robots that are programmed to mine and manufacture metals to create additional robots. What if such robots, programmed with the ability to replicate and make more robots, were sent to some remote planet in another solar system? What if they started building things, including more robots?
What would it take for the robots there to be ‘natural’? If we ever managed to make it to the robot planet, would it be possible for us to ever consider them ‘natural’, even if they covered the entire planet by that point? Probably not, honestly, as humans would always recognize that they created the robots.
The point of discussing buildings and robots is to illustrate one point – All things that exist require a builder, just like a building does. A building doesn’t build itself. Neither does a human body. Neither does a tree.
I fully admit that I do not see how anything could build itself. To me, it requires a lot of faith in ‘chance’ to have everything I see be produced from an explosion, or ‘big bang’. Every explosion I have seen destroys. Every explosion I have seen tears down. I have never seen, and submit I will never see, an explosion produce anything remotely similar to a building. And, since a building is far simpler than a human body, I fail to see how an explosion would produce anything even close to the human body.
Of course, I fully understand the arguments in support of evolution, that the body wasn’t built all at once so the explosion of the Big Bang itself didn’t automatically create the complex human body, but came about over eons of time as it slowly evolved from a protein or cell or something small like that. But, even cells and proteins are more complex than most buildings. So, even with this in mind, I still find myself asking “why doesn’t one brick evolve into a building?” “Because,” most people would say, “a brick isn’t alive,” to which I simply respond “neither was that protein or physical material that we supposedly started from.”
Ultimately, a question we do not have any empirical evidence for is the question of ‘what brings life?’ What is the life power that enables something to live? Science doesn’t know. Evolution doesn’t know. We know what is needed to sustain life, but we don’t know where life comes from.
In my mind, even evolution implies that a higher intelligence exists, an intelligence guiding the course of the evolution, as matter (like a brick) is unable to discern or recognize that there is a higher or better state to evolve to. Evolution seems premised on the theory that creatures evolve to be able to better handle situations around them. Creatures want to continue living. Zebras at one point developed stripes, fish at one point left the water, cells at one point grew a hard outer structure, etc. However, something that was never alive to begin with would never ‘know’ what a better situation is, or a better way to handle things, unless there was something teaching or pushing it.
When asked why a cell would grow a hard outer structure, evolution would claim that it was simply chance, and that the cells that did were then able to survive better. Science doesn’t know what caused cells to move from their original state to a state better suited for life. Returning to bricks though, while some bricks from thousands of years ago just happen to have been left in an environment where they could be preserved until our day, none of those bricks are changing into anything else.
Of course, people say again, it takes millions of years, not a few thousand, for a real change to take place, and it would be absurd to believe that the actual evolution could be seen in so short a time. If this were so though, how is it possible to develop a lung, for example, over millions of years? From what I have read, most life is presumed to have started developing in a water-based environment. Most of the early claimed life forms were in the water and later developed the ability to come out onto land. I have honestly tried to imagine a sea creature as I watched its evolutionary course. What would cause the creature to need to develop a lung that could breathe air on the land?
For example, does the creature slide onto the beach, flop around a few times trying to breathe and realize it cannot breathe? Does the DNA in one of these flopping sea creatures somehow realize that if it changes, it could find a way to breathe the air on the land? Or is it just ‘chance’ that one of the flopping sea creatures has the genetic makeup that can turn into a lung? Does that sea creature then slide back into the sea, and pass the start of a lung onto its posterity? Then, does that creature’s posterity (and its posterity) leave the sea and flop on the land while trying to breathe for the next three million years to help force a lung develop that has the ability to breathe air on the land?
Or, does the lung simply develop while the creature is in the sea, even though there is no need for the lung? Then, once the lung is nice and developed, for no reason at all as the creature never used it in the sea, the creature then leaves the water one day and realizes it can still live? At that point, does it also realize that flopping around isn’t the best form of travel, and so something triggers inside of it to develop legs, skin that can survive the sun, eyelids to protect from dust, etc.?
In my mind, evolution requires that any creature has to have a point where it can shift to a new environment, where it has developed enough to survive in that new environment. As a fish’s fin turns from a fin to a leg or arm (again, throughout millions of years of chance, as is claimed), how could those fish survive with a half-arm half-fin thing sticking out of its side? The fish would not be able to swim or walk at the middle point, and would simply die. In other words, the desire to live (which somehow became built into something alive) would keep the fish from wanting to develop legs, as such would give it a serious disadvantage for the millions of years it spent in the water developing them. If evolution presumes things survive that are the ‘fittest’ or most able, all of the creatures switching from a water-based environment to a land-based environment would have been the least fit or able to survive in the water the closer they got to being able to switch to the land, as their land-able bodies would be easy targets in a water system.
Evolution, it seems, relies on some type of ability that a creature has to recognize that change is necessary. For a brick, the brick doesn’t ‘know’ whether the ‘ideal’ state is as a full brick, cut in half, or with arms and legs. The brick has no reason to evolve or adapt, and has no knowledge that it might need to breath, see, taste, or smell. If the brick is thrown into water, it sits there, just as it would sit on land. Similarly, if I throw a fish onto the land, it doesn’t try to find a way to adapt to the new environment, it simply tries to get back into the water, as that is where it can survive. The fish knows where it can survive, and for the physical part of a fish to be able to adapt and change to life on the land, something would have to push the fish to make the change.
Evolution answers that changing environments caused animals to have to adapt and that the changing environments were the catalyst to evolutionary change. While this could answer some changes that have occurred in animals, such as producing thicker fur or different coloration, it still doesn’t explain the jump to radical changes in environments, such as from the water to the land, from swimming to walking, from having no eyes to developing eyes, etc. To me, evolution ultimately is premised on the ability of matter to recognize and pursue a ‘better’ state of existence.
Where did the eye come from for example? What caused matter to understand that it could develop a way to ‘see’? Nothing, most would say, the eye just happened by chance. If an eye, which is an object far more complex than the most advanced cameras yet made, were simply the product of chance, then all of our five senses would be the product of chance. Based on the extremely limited odds of developing anything though, much less an eye (as recognized by evolutionists themselves), wouldn’t that suggest that our five senses are only an infinitesimally small subset of all of the senses possible? In other words, since it is extremely unlikely that any senses developed by chance, wouldn’t that mean that most senses are still undeveloped, that we as humans rely on a very limited set of senses to understand the world around us?
And, if we truly have a limited number of senses, why in the world are we so certain of everything that we can perceive? If we can ‘perceive’ things with five senses, evolution would infer that there are countless more ways to see and understand the world around us. Consider if we were blind and could not see. We would not be able to ever understand stars, galaxies, or anything else in space. Our eyes open our minds to a bigger picture though, and help us see that there is more there, just as more senses would certainly open our minds to understanding the bigger picture.
To me, if evolution really were how we came to be, we should be extremely wary of our ability to understand the world around us, as we should recognize that there would be countless senses yet undeveloped in the human body. There is certainly nothing in evolutionary theory that would suggest that any animal or creature would have the possibility of developing all important traits. Humans cannot fly like a bird, cannot breathe under water, and cannot run like a cheetah, even though the ability to do so would have helped us survive. If we lack some of the most basic abilities of other animals that ‘had’ to develop such traits to survive, we would also certainly lack development of all of the senses possible, and our understanding of the world would be limited by the five senses that we have, as each sense opens to us an entire new world of understanding.
Returning to life though, all life, in my mind, has the potential to respond to the environment around it. I think that the ability to respond is a defining characteristic of life. Plants can follow the sun, fish can respond to a predator, and humans can respond to their environment. A brick though doesn’t respond to anything. It sits. It is acted upon, and never acts, just as all of the matter following the Big Bang would have sat and never acted on its own.
The biggest leap for me in evolution that remains unanswered is how two bricks coming together could suddenly respond to the environment around them. In the supposed masses of swirling matter following the Big Bang, what caused a few of those elements to take on the ability to respond to their environment, to start acting and not be acted upon? In other words, what caused life?
To me, those that believe in evolution or chance exercise a lot of faith, just as those who believe in Intelligent Design. Those that believe in evolution exercise faith in something we have never witnessed on this earth (an explosion creating, instead of destroying), they exercise faith in the ability of a brick to suddenly take on life and turn itself into a building, and they exercise faith in the assumption that there is nothing more intelligent than us in existence that was interested or involved in our creation. This, to me, is the hardest one of the presumptions to fathom. Even as humans we take a lot of interest in preserving animals and lower forms of life, and we go to great lengths and pains to try to stop an animal from becoming extinct. Other animals don’t seem to care as much, but if we care even a little for those below us, what would stop a higher intelligence from caring even more for us than we care for the animals around us?
Yes, Intelligent Design is also based on faith, a faith rooted in the natural order of things on the earth, the natural order that requires a builder for anything to be built. Evolution has certain logic to it, and many good arguments, but there are points where great leaps of faith are also required. In other words, evolution is based on faith, just as Intelligent Design is based on faith. Evolution is based on faith in chance, faith in the non-existence of things that humans cannot feel or measure with scientific instruments or our five senses, such as God, and faith in the ability of a massive explosion to create instead of destroy.
Even under an evolutionary theory, it is hard for me to believe that humans are the most advanced being in existence, that we somehow can truly understand everything about our world based on our five senses alone. There is an entire Universe full of things out there, of which we are such an infinitesimally small part. Based on the probability of everything out there, there is probably a greater chance that something more intelligent than us exists than there is in the chance that we are the most intelligent beings in existence. It is a large leap to assume that there isn’t anything more advanced than us as humans that had a part in our creation, to assume that nothing more advanced was involved in building us.
To a bird born in a city, the buildings are “natural”. They are simply part of the landscape. They pre-existed the bird, and the bird can’t build them. The bird accepts life with buildings, and the fact that buildings exist become a basic foundation upon which the bird views its reality. We, of course, can smile at a bird that is presumptuous enough to believe that buildings weren’t created or made, but for some reason we mock those who believe that trees, planets, and bodies had a Supreme Creator.
If something exists that we can’t build, then I fully believe that a higher power or intelligence created it, just as a power higher than the bird created the building it rests on. There is nothing silly about believing that all buildings require a builder, and all bodies require a Creator. This takes far less of a leap of logic or chance or faith than that required to believe that an explosion created all of us, that it made individuals, that it made order, and that, somehow, the non-living made life.
To me, Intelligent Design is a rational framework to accept. The building I sit in and the body I sit in really are not that different to me from an evolutionary standpoint. If my body can evolve, I see no reason why buildings shouldn’t evolve either. However, if buildings have to be built by a builder, so too, I believe, does my body.
So yes, I believe in a Supreme Creator, I believe in Intelligent Design, I exercise faith, just as everyone else does in trying to explain where we came from. As we are all trying to understand things that we cannot see or explain and are all exercising faith, I see no reason why a belief in a Supreme Creator should be mocked or ridiculed, as it is a belief based in the fact that buildings don’t build themselves.
I have four daughters, and the topic of modesty comes up fairly often in our home. My daughters seem to have an innate desire to dress like the girls around them, and are frustrated with me when I tell them they don’t get to wear the same clothes as some of the other girls wear. Since our conversations on modest dressing are so commonplace, and my daughters aren’t satisfied with the usual answers, I have thought a lot on the subject in an effort to better explain my feelings on modesty to them. Granted, I am a male, and certainly don’t understand the female mind, but I have noticed a few things that highlight to me the value of modesty.
I often hear women discuss how discrimination against women still exists in our society. I hear of glass ceilings in the corporate world, of pay inequality, of societal discouragement for women to pursue certain jobs, such as engineering or programming. As a man, I have struggled to understand what these women were saying, as I didn’t readily see anything that would cause such results. However, something hit me one day as I sat in a continuing legal education course, bored to the point of nodding off numerous times.
I work as an attorney in Utah, and the attorney field is still dominated by men. There are women attorneys, and there are no visible barriers to a woman being an attorney in Utah, but there are not a lot of women attorneys here. I am most often reminded of this point as I sit in continuing legal education classes, where I am surrounded by other attorneys and can see how the majority of attorneys are men.
At this particular course, I was extra bored by the topic and was not really paying attention to what was being said. Instead, I started looking around the room, taking a moment to actually look at the people around me. When I took that moment, I started thinking about the type of practice the person might do, where they might live, etc. As I thought about each person and what it was about the way they looked that made me pre-judge them as I did without knowing anything about them, I suddenly saw a significant difference between the men and women in the room.
A woman was presenting at the moment, and she had just taken over after a man had presented. The two were very opposite in the way they dressed. The man was greying, balding, had a beard, wore his pants high, and had very basic clothes on, just a simple button up shirt. His hair went many different ways, and he didn’t appear to care too much about the way that he looked. He had worn his button up shirt and slacks, and appeared content that he had satisfied his obligations as a presenter. I looked around the room, and saw a room full of similar looking men. Many were overweight, had ugly hair, no hair, or patches of hair, had moles, many (including myself) hadn’t shaved, and most just wore a polo shirt to the course, but all of them looked perfectly content and not concerned about their appearance.
The woman presenter, on the other hand, had every piece of hair perfectly sculpted in some type of do around her head. Her hair was dyed to all be the same color. She had perfectly applied makeup, and wore some type of tight fitting business jacket and short skirt which exhibited her model figure, as well as high heels. By far, she was dressed and looked far superior to any man in the room.
But then, I noticed something troubling. ALL of the women attorneys in the room were dressed the same. While some were heavier than others, they all had well done hair, well done makeup, and all dressed in a way that highlighted their body to the fullest extent possible for their build. As I watched the women, I saw their hands repeatedly fix even the slightest deviation of hair, and saw them work to hold themselves in a position that always best highlighted their body.
While I have always known that women tend to be more concerned about their appearance than men, I had never thought through possible reasons behind that. However, as I sat in that continuing legal education course, something struck me that I had never realized before. Something about these women, I suddenly realized, felt bound and obligated to appear as sexually pleasing as they possibly could, even though they were in a ‘professional’ work environment, while nothing compelled any of the men in the room to feel the same obligation.
Since that time, I have thought a lot about our culture’s push and demand for women to always appear as sexually pleasing as they possibly can. To me, our culture’s demand is so strong that it appears to mentally and emotionally enslave many women. While it may sound outlandish to some, I do believe that, as a general rule, many women are mentally and emotionally enslaved, used, and mistreated, and sadly, women themselves embrace this type of abuse as they accept the lie perpetuated by society that their individual worth is tied to their ability to appear sexually pleasing.
To me, it appears many women have invisible chains controlling the way they think and act. As an example, many women I know quite literally cannot walk outside without trying to look perfect. They would die being seen in public without makeup on, or without their hair done. They appear to be enslaved to an unforgiving and constant master of trying to look sexually pleasing. When I drive to work, I see women driving while finalizing their makeup and hair. When I go to the store, I see women exhausted from shopping for hours on end trying to find a piece of clothing that perfectly fits all of the curves on their body. Women are depressed when they get pregnant as their belly grows in size, and they are depressed when they have their baby because they retain some additional weight. There is a difference, of course, between seeking to look good and seeking to look sexually pleasing, and while some women simply want to look good, many appear to be driven to always look as sexually pleasing as they can.
I have had to wait – a lot – for women to get everything about their looks perfect before they are willing to leave to a destination. From early on in life, I knew girls who spent hours each day perfecting the way they looked. Girls starved themselves, refused to get an ice cream cone, or exercised endlessly trying to maintain a perfect figure. Something was driving all of these women and girls to spend their daily energy and emotions on their looks.
From all appearances to me, most everything in many a woman’s world revolves around the way she looks. She is happy when she feels beautiful, and depressed when she feels ugly. Thin women suffer depression because another woman is thinner, or because another woman is thin with a bigger bust. In other words, women feel depressed when they don’t satisfy the ‘master’ of appearance, and it seems that very few women are content with the way they look – all because there is always someone with a more perfect image.
On the other hand, most men seem content with the way they look. They are ok with bad hair days, they are ok with a potbelly, and their self-worth generally doesn’t rise or fall on how they look. Because of this difference, I begin to think on where the ‘master’ that drives a woman in this way comes from, and why it generally doesn’t impact the man like it does the woman.
As I reflected on the women at the continuing legal education course I attended, as well as other women I have met, all of the reasons to me, ultimately, pointed back to one ‘master’ that demanded women always appear as sexually pleasing as possible – the human male.
Males, throughout history, have often done what they could to keep females in an inferior role. Women weren’t allowed to vote, own property, attend school, etc., and they had to fight and work to overcome the inferior status imposed by the males around them. Now, women have found a place where the law treats them equal with men, but inequality still persists, meaning that the source of inequality comes from something besides the law.
One significant source feeding the inequality is the difference in how we, as a culture, view and value a woman and her body. Our culture says the more sexually pleasing a woman can appear, the higher value she has in society.
Think of what this really means though. Why is appearing sexually pleasing such a big deal? I’ll tell you (and I’m quite certain on this as I am a male). It’s because men consume sexuality through what they see. Certainly, there are many different levels of sexuality, but at its foundation, male sexuality starts with what they see, and what a male sees contributes to many other levels of male sexuality as well (think of the power of pornography, all consumed through sight alone).
So, men may have given up the power to keep women away from jobs, to keep them from voting, etc., but men have maintained some serious powers still – the power to compel women to be their eye candy, the power to constantly have their sexual appetite fed through what they see, the power to make women feel that the sum total of their self-worth is found in their ability to be a sexual object.
As I pass some women on the streets or in the halls, I notice something. If I look a woman in the eye, many instantly look away, turning their head away from me. Somehow, many women are trained to do this, from the most educated in society down to the most humble of us. I grew up in a rougher part of town, where gangsters, or wannabe gangsters, roamed. It was well known that avoiding eye contact was a sign of inferiority, and I spent my time on the streets maintaining eye contact with each wannabe gangster I passed. Because I could maintain eye contact, they knew not to mess with me, and I never had any problems. People who avoided eye contact though were easy targets for them to harass or pick on, as the avoidance of eye contact signaled to them some type of recognition of inferiority.
When I watch other males walk by a female, I often see them establish eye contact for a quick second until many a female invariable turns her head away from the man. The turning of the head then gives the man a quick second in which his eyes scan the woman down and up, as the turning of the head seems to be an open invitation for the scan to take place. If a woman maintains eye contact, however, things are awkward for the man because he is not used to his scan taking place while under the direct watch of the woman he is scanning, and often the scan never occurs when the woman maintains eye contact.
This practice ultimately makes me feel more that women are treated as sexual objects by men. Why is there a glass ceiling, pay differences, and lingering inequality? While I don’t know all of the reasons, one contributing factor is that some part of a man, even if just subconsciously, views a woman as a sexual object. The woman’s body is simply there to gratify the man’s sexual appetite.
Now, I’m not saying that all men are sexual monsters or that all men consciously think of these things. But, I am saying that some part of a man, even if only a small part that he doesn’t consciously recognize, looks to a woman to feed his sexual appetite, an appetite that always begins with a scan – with a judgment on how sexually pleasing the woman looks that day. And, when the level of sexually pleasing looks is the foundation of the evaluation of a woman, equality will never be built or achieved since the male brain separates objects and individuals in the hierarchy of importance. If a woman first has to pass a sexually pleasing test in the man’s mind, she will, first and foremost, always be an object, with her individuality only second to that.
So, to get to the power of modesty. Dressing immodestly feeds the male perception that woman are sexual objects, valued only if they appear sexually pleasing. Wearing a shirt that reveals a lot of cleavage focuses the natural instincts of a man on the cleavage alone and feeds the ‘object’ mentality. Many women I know want to be seen for who they are. They want to be valued for their skills, their mind, and their individuality, as they should be. Yet, they fall prey to the lie of dressing immodestly, making it so that men only see what is skin deep, making it so that men only see them as an object, and making it, ultimately, so that they feel compelled to maintain a sexually pleasing look at all times.
I read an article a little while ago with a theme along the lines of “I never knew a bikini could hide so much.” http://chastityproject.com/2015/10/i-never-knew-a-bikini-could-hide-so-much/ The point of the article was that when women wear bikinis, people can only see their skin. Men only see a sexual object, not an individual. When so much skin is showing, people don’t see the individual, they don’t see the brains, they don’t see the heart. Simply put, immodesty blinds us to seeing the true person inside.
As people though, we are more than just a physical body. We have depth, and fulfillment in life will only come from reaching the depths of who we are and having others recognize the beauty associated with the depth inside each of us. Immodesty significantly reduces the chances of reaching that depth, as it keeps attention on the surface, attention on the object part of who we are.
Why don’t I simply tell men to stop looking at women as objects? I do, and men certainly have a role to play in treating women appropriately. However, men are hardwired to view the sexuality associated with women. It takes serious work and effort on a man’s part to escape the natural inclination and thoughts produced with sexuality. Some men work hard on this, but others do not. Some try to avoid it, but for those that actually try, when they are tired, sad, mad, or otherwise not feeling their best, they will often give in to their natural passions, especially when women all around them are offering it for viewing.
In other words, the natural man encourages a man to view a woman as an object, as an inferior, and something for his gratification. Nature simply gives man the natural passion to consume sexuality through his eyes, and it is certain that there will always be men who take no effort to overcome their natural wiring. Since that reality exists, if we, collectively as men and women, want to overcome that more base part of the natural world, we should stop feeding it. We should remove its pull. If women want to wait for men to simply learn to conquer their natural passions, women will be waiting an extremely long time for things to change. No man is incentivized to change when he can feast daily on sexuality, until he reaches a point that it has ruined his life and his family’s life. There is no reason to wait for such consequences associated with objectifying women to come though, and we should start now to stop feeding the problem.
So, why do I encourage my daughters to dress modestly? Because I want them to know that they are more than their body. I want them to know that they don’t have to fall prey to the mental and emotional enslavement of always feeling compelled to dress as sexually pleasing as possible. I want them to know that they truly are equal with every man out there, and that they do not have to live a life feeding a man’s sexual appetite. I want them to be free from the chains of depression that haunt women whose self-worth rises or falls on their appearance. In short, I want them to enjoy the power and fulfillment associated with being seen as an individual.
To me, modest dressing means power. To me, looking a man in the eye and not looking away means equality. I truly want my girls to be free from the flood of sexuality that so negatively impacts women and feeds men. I’m honest about the realities of how men view women, and I want my daughters to understand that they can feed the problem, or they can reject the chains (originating from men) that demand they always appear sexually pleasing. I want my daughters to be seen as more than an object, so I encourage them to dress as more than an object. Modest clothing conveys confidence, modest clothing directs attention to deeper and more meaningful parts of the individual, and modest clothing helps break the chains that leave women depressed and used in our country. In short, there is a real power in dressing modestly, a power that betters individuals, families and societies.
For many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a central tenet of our religion came into focus when the leaders of the Church announced that children living with gay parents could not receive a name and a blessing as a baby and could not be baptized until they were of legal age and living out of the home. To many members and others interested in the LDS Church’s policies, this was a policy that was difficult for them to accept.
For those uncomfortable with or opposed to the policy, their feelings with the policy were compounded by the fact that the LDS Church teaches that it is led by prophets and apostles, or, in other words, men who are authorized and are supposed to speak and act for God. For many members, conflict ran deep as they tried to reconcile and understand their feelings on the policy and their feelings on being led by a prophet. Many were placed in the situation of feeling that they needed to let go of their deep feelings on the subject of homosexuality, or let go of their belief in a prophet of God.
From what I have seen, many honest and sincere people are working through these feelings. Some people have left the church, some are still trying to decide, and some are dealing with trying to find a way to understand all of their feelings on the subject. I don’t profess to have many answers on these deep questions and concerns for people, but will at least write down some thoughts on the subject.
As a member of the LDS, or Mormon, Church, a fundamental part of my belief (and I assume other member’s belief as well) in the Church and in God is tied to the fact that God’s Church is led by a prophet. To me, a living prophet is an essential aspect of a Church that is being actively led by God. To understand why, and to understand, perhaps, the Church’s doctrine and policies on homosexuality, it is necessary to explain the bigger picture of the LDS Church’s view on life and its purpose.
I fully believe in the teachings of the LDS Church that we all lived and existed as spirits prior to our life on this earth. Our spirits were all the children of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. In their presence, we were blessed with love, protection, goodness, and opportunities to grow and progress. Our Heavenly Parents are beings of omnipotence and omniscience, and at some point in our pre-mortal existence we wanted to become as they were. We wanted to have what they have. We wanted to be like them. In other words, we recognized our potential as their children, and recognized how neat it would be to share, to some degree, in their omnipotence and omniscience.
Of course, many of us in our limited understanding would just want to be given what our Heavenly Parents had, without working for it. Our Heavenly Parents knew though that it was essential, if we were to be given any form of power or knowledge, that we learn to control ourselves, our passions, appetites, and temptations that would arise. If we never had to learn to master ourselves, we could never be trusted with always using the power, knowledge, or blessings in a good way. I know, for example, that if I had unlimited power in my current state, I would have used it quite wrong in my many moments of feeling anger or frustration at someone or something.
In the pre-mortal world, we could fully sense the presence of our Heavenly Parents. With them always watching over us, we would likely be inclined to always ‘choose’ good as we knew that they were right there. They knew, however, that we had to develop the ability to choose on our own and to resist temptation in order to receive everything that they had. Self-control and mastery is the only way we could be trusted with the depth of the power and knowledge that they possessed. However, self-control and mastery could not be fully developed in an environment where we constantly felt the presence of God. Rather, self-control and mastery could only be developed in an environment where we truly felt on our own.
Because of this need for us to develop the ability to control ourselves in a situation where we felt on our own and were subject to passions, appetites, and temptations, God created this world for us. In addition to creating this world, He made it so that we could not remember Him or our past world. This condition of forgetfulness made it so that we felt on our own, even though He is still fully watching over us. This condition of forgetfulness also made it so that, if we choose to do good, we would be developing ourselves to enable us to actually become someone that could qualify for the things of God. Essentially, our physical state on this earth fully enables us to learn who we are and the true extent of our personal weaknesses as we get to see how we respond to our passions, appetites, and temptations with the limited power and ability that God gave us here.
This condition of forgetfulness had to be tempered though in order for us to be able to know enough about God to know the things that we needed to do to become like God. In other words, there had to be a way for us to feel that we were on our own, but also a way for us to be led back to God. The method God chose for us, in our current state of existence, is to have a Prophet who is authorized to speak for God.
A Prophet enables us to learn and understand the necessary items that we need to develop and do in this life, while still allowing us to feel that we are removed from God. In other words, a Prophet delivers the balance necessary to provide us with our testing conditions here on this earth while still allowing a way for us to accomplish and pass our time of testing to see who we really are.
Since I believe in a pre-mortal existence, a testing period on this earth, and in our potential to truly become like God, prophets, to me, are a necessary piece of God’s plan. I feel, very strongly, that there is a Prophet on this earth, and that He does speak for God. Currently, this Prophet is Thomas S. Monson, the President of the LDS Church. And, I feel that He tells me the things that are necessary for me to do in order to become a person who could qualify to receive the things of God.
Recently though, the Church’s stand on homosexuality has come into the spotlight, and with the Church’s recent policy addressing children living with homosexual parents, many feel that the Prophet is misguided or not speaking for God. From the way I see things though, the Church’s position remains consistent with the rest of its teachings and practices.
Going back to our pre-mortal existence, one power of God, that is perhaps one of the most amazing to exercise, is the power to create. God can, and has, created worlds without number, and has created all of the amazing creatures on this earth, as well as creating you and I. As part of our testing experience on this earth, God gave us a portion of the creation power, and all of us, to some extent or another, experience the pulls of this power through the power of procreation, or sexuality. To be clear, we are all given other limited powers of creation through our creative abilities, but the power of procreation is a fundamental one running through all of us.
In my mind, the power of creation is one of the most fundamental aspects of God, which may be why the world views sexuality as a fundamental part of our existence on this earth. If the fundamental reason for us to be on this earth is to experience the powers of God, then sexuality (as a small representation of God’s power of creation) would be a fundamental part of our existence here as well. To be clear, I’m not professing that God creates through sexuality, I’m only saying that sexuality is the way that we experience, in a small way, a portion of the creative power of God.
However, the creation of life and the powers associated with life are serious matters. Life is a beautiful thing of infinite worth, but creating a life carries with it great responsibilities. It would not be right for you or I to create life after life solely to satisfy our own passions as those lives must then experience everything that is thrown at them, good or bad. In other words, the power of creation carries with it serious responsibility, and is not a power to just be used as we see fit at a given moment.
Because of that, God, as part of us learning to exercise self-control and become worthy to possess the creative power of God in the eternities, commands that we bridle our sexual passions and only express them in very limited scenarios. If we are to become like God and have a portion of His eternal creative power, we have to develop the ability to use that power in eternally appropriate ways. If we misuse the limited power we possess here, we will certainly misuse the full power possessed by God. If, however, we learn to bridle our passions here and resist even the most compelling desires, we are qualifying ourselves to possess what God possesses, as He knows that we will not misuse it, even under the most compelling or tempting of situations.
To that end, God instituted a law of chastity, commanding that sexual relations only occur between a man and a woman, under marriage covenant to remain with each other and raise the children of their own union. In the teachings of the LDS Church, God has no allowance for any other type of sexual expression, be it homosexual, adult/child, boyfriend/girlfriend, adultery, pornography, or even masturbation. God asks that despite whatever compelling desires we may have to the contrary, that we learn to bridle those passions and restrain our conduct.
By doing so, we develop an immensely strong character, one that is forming the power to resist the passions and temptations associated with Godhood. Christ was an amazing example of bridling passions because He had the full power to stop His suffering at any given time, to smite people to the earth, or to create whatever was necessary to make His life easy and comfortable. Yet, He restrained. He restrained from exercising His power in any way that would result in an inappropriate use of His amazing power and ability. In other words, Christ had developed full control of Himself, His passions, appetites, and powers, and He is simply asking us to do the same. We need full control of ourselves in order to become like God.
Many people I know struggle with the Church’s stance on homosexuality since they feel that people are born with homosexual attractions. To me though, even if homosexuality is ingrained in the DNA of some people, that is fully in line with our purpose on this earth. The Book of Mormon teaches us about the “natural man”, or our physical being that is subject to all types of lusts and passions. We are taught that we are here to “put off” the “natural man” and to become a Saint, or a being who is able to exercise full self-control and choose the good.
In my mind, our DNA is the “natural man” part of us all. I certainly believe that with enough research, science will discover that our DNA plays a part in homosexuality, in sexual attraction to children, in sexual attraction to animals, in people who aren’t satisfied unless they have multiple relations with multiple partners, in people who stutter, in people who are shy, in people who are easily offended, in people who are overly anxious or depressed, in obesity, in attraction to alcohol or drugs, and even in people who lust after power or money. In short, I believe we’ll find that DNA contributes to most things about us, be it good or bad.
Our DNA certainly places us in a position that goes against what God asks of us. All of us, I am certain, have DNA that entices us to do things outside of the bounds set by God. In my opinion, God allows this and allows our DNA to drive us, as we have to have something fundamental to push against in order to develop our true self. If we have no opposition at the fundamental level of what builds us, we will never exercise or improve the core of who we are. God wants us to have a solid foundation driving everything that we do, and the only way for us to create a solid foundation in our own selves is to have to fight against something pushing against that foundation, or, in other words, we have to fight against our DNA.
I can only imagine the level of self-control and sheer will necessary for a homosexual to decide to follow the teachings of the LDS Church, but I can only imagine how quickly the solid core and foundation will develop and build for that individual as they follow God’s laws. A person who has sexual tendencies, of any sort, embedded in their DNA and successfully resists those temptations, is qualifying to possess all that God possesses, as they are able to successfully resist some of the most fundamental drives we have as humans. King David fell as a result of his inability to control his passions and lusts, but others have risen as they put off the natural man, exercise control, and learn to bridle and control their own DNA or other temptations thrown at them.
While the above highlights a general overview of prophets and the law of chastity, I wanted to offer two main points in particular response to the Church’s recent policy related to children living with a homosexual couple. I admit that I don’t have all of the answers on this particular policy, but there are two that are prevalent in my mind.
First, people talk about how harsh the policy is against the children, how it will stigmatize them and leave them excluded. People ask, if the Church is about family, why the Church doesn’t reach out to help and embrace these children.
From what I can see, the Church does care, and cares deeply about families and children. The Church has always been respectful of a person’s exercise of authority. The Church follows the laws of the land it is in, and even keeps missionaries and church buildings out of countries that ban the LDS religion. The Church also respects the authority of a parent to make decisions for a child, as a child doesn’t have the right, under the laws of most lands, to make all of their decisions for themselves. To that end, parents can refuse to allow a child to be baptized, to receive priesthood blessings that may save the child’s life, or refuse or allow religion in any degree the parent desires. The Church fully respects the authority of the parents over their minor children.
In addition, the Church allows a person to decide what family means to that person. To a polygamous individual, it may mean multiple wives, to a gay person, it may mean a gay marriage. However, just because the Church respects an individual or nation’s authority to define family, this in no way means that an individual or nation gets the benefits of the Gospel when they make decisions contrary to the Church. In particular, the Church does not allow an individual’s authority over his/her family to act as authority to set or change Church teachings on a subject.
In a gay marriage with children, the children that may want to be involved with the Church are placed into a conflicting situation, and I don’t think that anyone denies that things may be conflicted for these children who associate with the LDS Church. This situation arises from two things 1. the Church’s teachings about family and the proper use of our procreative abilities, and 2. the physical reality of the relationship of the child’s parents.
From what I’ve seen, most people point the finger of blame at the Church for responding to this conflict with its recent policy, saying that the Church is the one creating the discord for the child. However, people often gloss over the other side of that coin, which is that the gay parents also created a situation for their child which automatically sets them apart from other members of the Church and from the Church teachings. I often wonder why we are so quick to blame the Church for conflict when we have chosen to live in a way that does not follow what the Church is and teaches. For example, if I drank alcohol, my life would be conflicted with the teachings of the Church, but I wouldn’t demand that the Church change or accept me for who I was, or that the Church find a way to make my child less embarrassed about his drunk father. I would know that I decided to go down a different path in my life, and I would either have to be ok with that, live with the perpetual conflict, or give up alcohol to rejoin with the Church.
The Church fully recognizes the situation the child is placed in, being torn between two fundamentally opposing views, teachings, and realities for the child. And, the Church, as always, defers to the parental authority of the parent to make decisions for the child. When, as in these situations, a gay parent decides to raise a child in a gay marriage, the parent has decided the life and reality he/she wants to provide to the child, and the Church respects that. The policy, in my mind, defers to the reality that the gay couple wants for their child.
Of course, the Church allows children of people who drink, smoke, or violate some other sexual conduct laws to be baptized, and people ask what separates these children from children in a homosexual relationship. To me, it is a matter of degree. All of us are imperfect, and if an imperfection of a parent prevented a child from being baptized, no one would be baptized until they were 18. Therefore, parents are allowed to have some degree of imperfections, and it is up to the Prophet to decide when our lifestyle choices affect our child in such fundamental ways that the child’s life at home is fundamentally at odds with the teachings of the Church, which situations would then dictate that the child must wait until they are 18 to be baptized, since a fundamental conflict requires additional age and maturity to resolve. While age 8 may be the age of accountability, it is not the age of wisdom, maturity for all decisions (very few would argue that an 8 year old is mature enough, for example, to consent to a sexual relationship, and even the Church teaches that though accountable, a child should wait until at least 16 to even go on a date), or an age at which the child is legally free to make his/her own decisions. Therefore, when an issue is present that creates such a fundamental conflict that requires wisdom, maturity, and freedom to fully resolve, the child must wait to be baptized until the time arises at which it is appropriate to make those decisions.
And, the Church has made decisions related to when a parent’s choices are fundamentally at odds with the Church’s teachings. Polygamy is one of these, and gay marriage is another. Both of these, due to the depth of differences reached with current Church teachings, become fundamentally at odds in an irreconcilable way. Since the parent’s lifestyles in these situations do bring the child into a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict with current Church teachings, the Church simply defers to the parents’ choices and respects the authority of the parent to make certain decisions for their child. From what I can see, as the Church does support the family and a parent’s authority to make decisions for their family, its policy follows its practices.
This is especially so because the Church, if it is speaking for God, cannot fabricate a false view of its teachings that are considered to be eternal in nature. It has to stand by the eternal truths it espouses. Certainly, Church policies and some teachings have evolved to address current situations in society, but certain fundamental, eternal type teachings remain consistent, especially the ones that affect our eternal life in such profound ways. The Church knows that its members, as compassionate humans, may attempt to ease the conflict for the children by softening or not teaching certain critical Church teachings on the nature of God and the family. Allowing children in this situation to be baptized brings many of the lay members of the Church into the conflict as well, as the Church member is then torn on how to teach and carry out Church teachings while maintaining compassion. Since the Church is run at most levels by lay members, the Church has to help its members also have ways to maintain the fundamental Church teachings.
Of course, members are placed into this situation anyways, especially when they have family members or friends who are homosexual. However, the conflict is significantly increased when the conflict is carried into the heart of Church proceedings. From what I can see, since homosexuality is so fundamentally at odds with the Church’s teachings on God and the family, the Church needs policies that balance the interests of everyone involved – the gay couple, the child, Church teachings, and Church members, as well as the law (discussed below) – especially as it relates to the choices of the parents as this is always where the Church defers. And, this isn’t a policy that keeps children out or heaven, it is one that defers baptism to a later point in time, to a time when the child is both accountable, wise, and mature enough to be able to make decisions related to a fundamental conflict present in the child’s life.
Second, as to the aspect of a Prophet foreseeing the future, I see that the current Church policy may help the Church maintain its religious freedom in the future. I don’t see many people talking about how the policy intertwines with current developments in the law, but I see it as being directly correlated to the changes in law spreading over the world.
Religious freedom jurisprudence is complex and is not always homogeneous, meaning that certain cases were decided in a way that appears to depart from the ongoing evolution of the law, and while I recognize that some cases provide arguments against the following, I do not address them as I am more focused on the general trend that has been gaining steam for quite some time.
Religious freedom is a right set forth in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. For a time, courts were quite protective of this right, and required the government to show a fairly compelling justification to abridge a person’s religious beliefs. However, in 1990, the US Supreme Court departed quite radically from this requirement in the case of Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), where the Supreme Court said, in essence, that the government was free to abridge a person’s religion if it were through a law that applied equally to everyone and was not meant to target a specific religion or practice, unless the person could show that the law so substantially burdened or affected their religious beliefs. This showing of substantial burden to a religious belief is an extremely high hurdle to overcome, and it has rarely been done.
In response to this, Congress passed a statute offering more protection to religious freedom to help bring religious freedom protection to the pre-Smith era. Therefore, most of the religious freedom protection that exists right now is under a Federal statute, as opposed to the US Constitution. As an example, Hobby Lobby won its religious freedom challenge against Obamacare under this statute.
However, the Federal statute can be revoked at any time, as soon as it is no longer popular to protect a person’s religion, or one little exception to the current law can be passed excluding matters on homosexuality from the religious protections offered by the statute. If that happens, a religion would be required to revert to the Smith Supreme Court precedent where the religion’s freedom would only be protected if the religion could show a substantial burden to its religion.
Essentially, the Supreme Court precedent is not favorable to religions, and a church would need a way to show that certain laws, such as non-discrimination laws, substantially impair or burden their religious freedom. In addition, since the current religious protection is statutory, it is possible that the Supreme Court may determine that a constitutional right to gay marriage trumps a Federal statute (as the Constitution is the supreme law of the land), even if the Federal statute is never revoked by Congress. Either of these situations would lead to the loss of most religious freedom protection currently in existence in this country.
Because of these two very real possibilities resulting in the loss of Federal statutory protection for religions, religions have to find a way to articulate, show, and have evidence for what types of things would substantially burden their religion, as loss of the statute would cause the religious freedom questions to be decided under the Smith rational requiring a substantial impact shown to the religion. From what I can see, for a religion to meet the high hurdle required by the Supreme Court of showing substantial burden, religions have to live or die by the principles they claim are substantial, meaning that they have to rigidly hold to them or else the Supreme Court will not believe that one other variation from these principles (if the religion does not faithfully adhere to its teachings) will substantially impact or burden the religion.
So, in evaluating what might constitute a substantial impact on a religion, it is instructive to look to two different religious groups, the Amish and the Catholics. Both of these religions provide insight into two different ways of carrying out their religion, and both are often involved in religious freedom challenges.
The Amish are a group of people who live or die by their principles. You can see, just from observing them, that they truly adhere to and practice what they preach, and that any deviation from their practices would substantially affect their life and religion due to how much of our society they have chosen to live without. Because of that, the Amish are quite successful at prevailing in freedom of religion challenges and have successfully been ruled exempt from numerous laws that other religions are bound by, including compulsory education for children laws, some social security requirements, etc. The Amish are so often protected by courts that Congress often doesn’t even attempt to regulate them, as was the case with Obamacare where the Amish enjoyed a statutory exemption from being required to obtain health insurance.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church has many Catholics of varying degree of devotion, and the Catholic charity side assists numerous individuals not of the Catholic faith. Catholics are great examples of providing charity and assisting those in need, but their religious teachings provide limits as to the extent of the services they can provide. So, when Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, Catholic charities in the area that provided adoption services could not, under their religious tenets, place a child with two gay parents, even if such parents were legally married.
For these and other Catholic charities, they were required by law in these states to make a decision – either go against their religion, or stop providing adoption services. Basically, the Courts did not accept that, in the adoption context, the Catholics would be substantially burdened by adopting to a gay couple because Catholics adopted to other people that might violate the Catholic religion. Mormons would be an example as Mormons are not considered to be living in accordance with Catholic teaching, but a Mormon couple may be able to adopt a child. Therefore, since the Catholics reach out to many not of their faith, the courts are not as willing to find a substantial burden to the religion by requiring them to reach out to one more person not following the Catholic faith.
In essence, the Catholic Church is punished by the courts for its compassion. Because it reaches out to others not of its faith, it is losing some ground related to its religious freedom. Other individuals are also losing in the realm of gay marriage. Photographers, bakers, and caterers cannot refuse to provide services at a gay wedding because they provide services to other people. Their choice is the same as the Catholic Church – either go against your religious beliefs or stop providing the services. Since a baker will bake a cake for a non-Christian, the Court doesn’t seem to find any substantial burden to the baker by asking the baker to provide services for one more person that doesn’t follow the baker’s moral compass. I entirely imagine that the result would be far different though for a gay couple trying to compel an Amish baker to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
The track record of religious freedom versus gay marriage is not a good one in this country. Religious freedom pretty much loses in court as gay marriage becomes considered a ‘fundamental right’. Therefore, any religion has to be considering quite extensively how, in light of the recent developments in the law, it will be able to preserve its religious freedom to continue following its teachings and practices as it relates to marriage and family.
One historical item of interest and precedent in considering how to respond to a new ‘fundamental right’ is the LDS Church’s response to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) when abortion was held to be a ‘fundamental right’. By 1974, just one year after the 1973 decision, the LDS Church had a new policy on being involved in providing health care and hospital services. The LDS Church decided to leave the hospital realm altogether. Intermountain Healthcare was a non-profit created to continue providing the services previously provided by the LDS Church through multiple hospitals, and by 1975 the Church had transferred its fifteen hospitals to the non-profit.
Fast forward to today. The health care industry currently has some Federal statutory protections against providing abortions, but many places are trying to require that each health facility provide abortion services. Currently, so long as a Catholic hospital refers abortions to another provider they generally do not have to perform abortions, but the support for such could change at any time. Further, items such as the morning after pill, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, stem cell research, and other matters greatly complicate the morality of things in the health industry.
To me, the Church, through a prophet, could foresee where the health industry was headed in light of the new ‘fundamental right’ to abortion. Due to the direction the law was going, the Church stepped out of health care. I’m certain that many people could have been further helped had the Church remained in health care, but I’m also certain the Prophet knew what was necessary to keep the Church in line with its morality in relation to the new ‘fundamental right’ of abortion and its ripple effects on the rest of the health care/morality debate that would flow from it.
From what I can see, now that gay marriage is a ‘fundamental right’, the Church has to take some action to protect itself from the further evolution of the law. While many criticize the policy as being too harsh, the recent policy’s claimed ‘harshness’ may be what convinces the Supreme Court that the LDS Church does live or die by its practices in relation to homosexuality, even to the point where the LDS Church is willing to suffer intense backlash and criticism to maintain its teachings.
Of course, I certainly do not know how the law will shake out, but God’s Prophet can know these things, and God’s Prophet can be inspired about the crafting of policies that have to balance the interests of the Church, its members, gay parents, children with gay parents, and the evolution of the law. I certainly do not envy the burden of finding a way to balance all of these interests, but I see the Church’s policy as a policy that does just that, especially in light of the current and real threat to the Church’s religious freedom.
In sum, I fully believe in a Prophet. I see the current Church policy as one that has to attempt to reconcile many competing views and interests, and one that has to take into consideration the current evolution of the law. If it were up to me, I probably would have done things differently, but that is also why I am not the Prophet. God knows the depths reached, the ripples created, and the future events impacted by this policy, and He inspires His Prophet to properly navigate current and future conditions. I would invite anyone working to reconcile feelings on this subject to turn to God, being honest about all of the competing interests that have to be reconciled at this time, and I believe that God will answer your honest inquires. We just have to remember that we are here to develop the capacity to become like God, and it is only through mastering our self by following God's Prophet that we can accomplish that goal.
I often wonder why we are missing big or important pieces of information related to God, religious doctrine, or other religious matters. Life would be a lot easier if we could know a lot of these things, or so it seems at least. I certainly don’t profess to know much in this arena, but have a few thoughts on the subject.
First, I enjoy reading some sci-fi novels, especially ones where the author attempts to tackle time travel. No matter the time travel story, the time travel conundrum is always present – deciding whether it is possible for the main character to go back and visit himself in the past, especially if he does something that would prevent him from being alive long enough to reach the point in the future at which he went back to the past.
I eventually realized that knowledge of ‘everything’ can present the same type of conundrum. If God revealed to me, for example, that I was going to be in a car accident on Tuesday while commuting to work, the knowledge of what would happen to me would alter how I would act on Tuesday. I might take a different route, call in sick, etc. The ‘revealed’ knowledge on my future, and the accident in particular, would alter my conduct, which would then alter my future, making it so that I really didn’t know my future.
In other words, knowledge of the future acts to change my current path, leading me away from the path on which the knowledge of my future was based. Suppose, for example, that my path, prior to knowing about the car accident, was ‘path X’. When I learn about where my path X is leading, I would suddenly change my conduct, meaning that I am now on path Z, which leads to a different future, which would mean that I never saw my actual future when I saw where path X led. Trying to follow all of these possibilities is quite the mental exercise, but it certainly creates an interesting problem when it comes to ‘revealing’ the future, as the ‘future’ may simply be a path that never results when I switch paths as opposed to my ‘actual’ future.
The point of this is to simply highlight that ignorance may keep us on the right path. If we believe and accept that 1) God loves us and has our best interests, in an eternal sense, in mind, 2) we are imperfect creatures that would likely, if given the option, choose to avoid hard or difficult times, and 3) growth can come through trials, then I think that it necessarily follows that God will not reveal everything to us so that we remain on the path that will produce the best results for us, as such path of best results is likely strewn with obstacles, work, effort, hardships, pain, loss, etc. In other words, it seems that we would naturally gravitate towards the path of least resistance, as opposed to voluntarily remaining on the path that will bring us the most good in the end.
While my example involved a future harm (a car accident), there are other things that we don’t know that don’t appear to cause harm, such as many details related to Heaven, God, why some are born with disabilities, etc. We often want to know answers to many questions in life, but I would guess that we are entirely incapable of recognizing how certain information will affect our current path. Some information may change our perspective, even so slightly, as to cause us to go down a different path than we would have before. And, if that new path was less optimal than the path we were on, it seems to me that a loving God would withhold the information so that we persevered on the path that was most optimal for us. Multiply this by the infinite number of affects to other people’s paths that results from my ‘changed’ path, and I am left recognizing that only an all-knowing and all-seeing God could perfectly balance the amount of information necessary to be known with the amount of information necessary to withhold, both for my life and for the course of humanity.
Basically, it seems to me that only a ‘perfect’ being could be all-seeing, as only a ‘perfect’ being could submit to a path that He knows would produce great heartache and pain. As an example, Jesus knew of the agony of the atonement and crucifixion, yet He never deviated from the path that He knew perfectly well would produce his most serious pain and sorrow, as He knew it was the path that was necessary for our salvation. I am certain I do not have the commitment or willpower to knowingly stay dedicated to such a path as He did. Therefore, I am grateful that I do not know everything and do not know all that my future holds, so that I can move forward one day at a time, trusting that whatever comes, God will give me the power and ability to overcome and continue on.
Second, I feel that we lack information on many details simply because it is impossible for our finite minds to process infinite subjects. If there are certain subjects that we cannot understand with our limited mind power at this time and of which we would form a seriously wrong impression of based on the information received on the subject, it seems to me that God would simply not talk about the subject and just reassure me that answers are there – I just need to keep moving forward until I reach a point at which I can understand those topics. I do this all of the time with my children, not telling them everything about life before they can fully understand what I am telling them, and I can see no reason why it would be different for me as a Child of God.
While I know that we tend to think of ourselves as quite learned and smart, the reality is that we have only begun scratching the surface of an infinitesimally small portion of our Universe (our Earth). There is so much yet to know, understand, and learn, that we really are like little children in God’s eyes, growing, learning, and developing. Therefore, when I think about an all-knowing, all-seeing God, I think about how far I still have to go and realize that I can be content not knowing everything yet, as I have a lot of growing, developing, and progressing to do.
Third, I believe that, in order to become like God, we have to exercise faith. We have to be willing to walk paths that take us to an unknown, but hoped for, destination. There is a lot of discussion and information packed into the concept of faith, but right now it is sufficient to mention that faith allows us to tap into and utilize the power of God in our life. Faith is a form of power, and allows for the creation of something new, something that benefits and improves. If I recognize that I don’t know everything, I can put my belief and efforts into the hands of the One who does know everything and let Him make far more of my life than I would otherwise be able to if I thought that I knew everything about the item I was addressing at the time.
Ultimately, I believe that, with our finite minds, there are many matters that cannot be comprehended or understood without us experiencing those items. The greatest truths of life have to be experienced in order to be understood. True love, for example, has to be experienced to be understood. Color has to be seen, not described. Crisp, fall air has to be felt, not talked about. Life, ultimately, is an experience, and logic and information only go so far in promoting our understanding. The deepest sense of understanding comes through experience, and it takes faith to experience things as we have to first believe and then act in order to experience.
For example, if we are at a place and surrounded by darkness, God might whisper to us to continue forward. Our mind may raise warning alarms due to the appearance of harm or the unknown. The path we are on might take us through some tough times, and it may be impossible for us to understand why the path is a good one prior to our experiencing it. Due to this, our faith in God, if followed, will propel us forward despite what we ‘see’ or ‘understand’, and will help us to maintain a hope that there is a good reason and purpose for the path we are on. However, our limited mind might scream at us to stop since the appearance of our path, or the logic we can understand, suggests that it isn’t the right path. If we continue forward in faith though, we ultimately experience things we would never be able to otherwise experience, and those experiences deepen our understanding and enrich our lives at some point in the future. As I certainly cannot see the future, I do my best to move forward in faith, trying not to get too weighed down with what I don’t understand so that I can experience, live, and grow and make it closer in the end to God.
I’m certain that there are many more reasons why God doesn’t reveal everything to us. However, these three give me plenty to think about and help me understand that I can trust that God knows what He is doing. From what I can see, our optimal futures can be reached through the information revealed so far (helping us to get off of bad paths), while the withholding of other information may help to keep us on an optimal path. Of course, we can choose to deviate from these optimal paths despite what God has revealed, but if we choose to have faith and move forward based on what has been revealed, the combination of information known and faith required on the information unknown will help us to stay on the right path and lead us to the brightest possible future. Therefore, I elect to keep following God, even though I certainly don’t understand everything involved yet, and yet keep a hope that one day, one day, I will have experienced enough to understand the answers to my deepest questions.
There seems to be a trend away from religion and religious beliefs, especially beliefs that take a firm stand on certain issues. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known by the abbreviation "LDS" or known as the "Mormon" church due to a book of scripture read in the Church called the "Book of Mormon". Since animosity towards religion seems to be increasing, I wanted to offer an explanation as to why I'm a Mormon.
To be honest, being a Mormon is challenging. To fully live my faith, it requires a lot of sacrifice of time, energy, and resources. We are asked to dedicate much. I have served in a variety of positions in the Church, many requiring lots of time away from home. I have had the opportunity to visit and administer to those who are sick, and to be visited and administered to when I am sick. I donate resources to help further good works in the world, and I do these things just the same as the countless other individuals in the Mormon Church.
Despite the challenges, I love being a Mormon. Here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why I am Mormon. Feel free to ask me about any other aspects of the Mormon religion that you have questions about. I have no problem discussing my beliefs. Some of these items below I do not find present in other religions, which helps to solidify my adherence to the Mormon religion.
Christ is certainly the main focus of the Mormon religion, and the main focus of everything I do. The Mormon Church teaches more depth on His atonement and resurrection than any other religion I know. We're taught that His atonement allows us to overcome our shortcomings, mistakes, and problems to become better, whole, complete, and more like God. It also allows us to be healed from the bad things that happen in life. Mormonism teaches that Christ is our path back to God, and teaches the requirement of belief and good works to qualify for the highest of God's blessings.
Mormons take a different view of Heaven than most others do. Most religions are divided into a simple Heaven and Hell scenario. To me, this simple scenario would not promote any individual to good works, and as I often see, just causes one to express, in words, that they accept Christ, but does little to change their actions or course of conduct. Mormons though believe in three major divisions of Heaven, called the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdoms, with further divisions present inside the three major divisions. To me, these divisions reconcile what other religions cannot, and that is having a place for all to go based on who they decide to become. If the "Saints" in life will be in the same Heaven as one who only accepts Christ in word but not deed, I cannot see how that is fair to the Saint who gave so much for the cause of good, or similarly, why it would be just to send a 'good' person to Hell simply because they never said 'I believe' during this life. We will all receive are appropriate due. To me, the belief in divisions in Heaven is an important piece in having a just God.
Mormons have churches for Sunday worship as well as Temples where additional ordinances take place, including the sealing of families together for eternity. In addition, vicarious work for the dead is completed in Temples, allowing those that have died without a knowledge of God's Gospel to accept the ordinances necessary to become a better person and live with God. To me, this vicarious work is absolutely essential for God to be both merciful and just, as it balances the requirement that all must participate in certain ordinances with the realities of life for those that never heard the fullness of the Gospel. Due to choices of mankind, truths have been lost from the earth at times and people have lived without the ability to know or believe all that is necessary, and the vicarious work for the dead shows the way God prepared to provide every person the opportunity to fully partake of all that His gospel offers.
I know of no other religion that has a way to justly reconcile what happens to people that do not get the opportunity to hear the Gospel and participate in the necessary ordinances. In addition, it is amazing to go to a Temple and see the vast amounts of Mormons who work tirelessly to perform vicarious work for the dead. Nothing, in my mind, could compel such a large group of people to do such a work except for the love of God. To me, the Temples provide such amazing evidence of God's love for all of his children.
The Spirit World
Mormons believe that after we die, we go to a place called the 'Spirit World' prior to being resurrected. The Spirit World goes hand in hand with the Temple, as it is in the Spirit World where all receive a full opportunity to be taught the Gospel and accept the ordinances performed for them in the Temples. The Spirit World again helps to balance the justice and mercy of God and provides a way for all of God's children to be saved. It also helps me be less judgmental of people as I recognize that we all get a complete chance to accept the Gospel, and my limited view of a person in this life is not a complete view of who they may become.
The Book of Mormon
Christ came to Jerusalem and reached such a small portion of the earth's population during His time on the earth. The Bible is a compilation of different things written by different people about Him or about the events of people and groups that believed in Him. However, the Bible offers no satisfactory reason as to why Christ would be limited to the Israelites and the Jews. If Christ is the God of all, why not visit others at various times on the earth? To me, the Book of Mormon highlights a very important truth, that God is the God of all and forgets none of us. The Book of Mormon gives an account of Christ and his visit to peoples in the Americas after His resurrection. The Book of Mormon serves to highlight that Christ is concerned for all, and that His teachings are not limited to the Bible. I have found great access to God through the simple truths in the Book of Mormon.
Prophets and Apostles
The Bible makes readily clear that God has used prophets to communicate His will to the earth. Prophets provide an appropriate balance between our need to know God's will as well as our need to exercise faith. The Mormon Church is lead by a Prophet and Apostles, just as Christ's Church was. I can find no good reason why God would cease talking to us after His resurrection as we are just in need of direction in our day as others would have been earlier. The fact that we have Prophets and Apostles leading us provides me with trust in God, as He is still using His established practices to guide His Church. These Prophets and Apostles speak to the entire world twice a year in a General Conference. I invite you to listen to what they have to say, as by listening you too can feel the Spirit of God testify to the words of God they speak. They hold a General Conference the first Saturday and Sunday in April and October, and can be viewed online at www.lds.org.
Mormons believe in a pre-mortal, or pre-earth, life. We believe that we existed as Spirits before coming to this earth. To a Mormon, this earth is but a short stop on the path of eternity. We believe in the eternal nature of life, meaning that we have always existed in some form and will always exist. I find many answers to question of "why" wrapped up in the fact that we lived pre-mortally. This knowledge helps to reconcile many holes in the big picture of our life and gives me a very different outlook on the purpose of this life.
The Big Picture
Ultimately, many of the pieces present in the Mormon religion fit together to produce an awe inspiring masterpiece for life. It takes time to understand the full picture created by the Mormon Church, and just hearing one piece of it may make it seem that the Mormon religion does not make sense. However, when you fully study all that it teaches, it produces a very complete picture of life.
You could say that I am Mormon because it produces the most complete outlook on life, ranging from eternities past to eternities yet to come, and it helps me look outside my limited vision to see a little bit more of what God might see. My mind always wants to understand the "big picture". When I read the Bible, listen to things that are taught, or otherwise review doctrinal matters, I want to know why. I want to know how that piece I am seeing fits into the purposes and designs of God and life. I want to know how my choices today affect my life tomorrow. From what I can see, the Mormon faith provides a far more expansive view and understanding of the big picture and gives far more answers than what I can otherwise find.
Of course, God does not give us all the answers yet. Faith is a necessary component of this life, and so there are still questions that exist in my mind. I don't have all of the pieces in place yet, and I don't see the entire picture. Yet, I don't let myself get hung up over one matter that I am working on understanding since the big picture is still there. I have found that as I continue to move forward, answers do come, pieces fit, my perception changes, my heart softens, and I am able to see how my area of concern fits into the bigger picture. There are items I have been working for years to understand and don't yet understand, but I am comfortable that once I grow in understanding, I will be able to grasp these things and see their place.
To me, a great truth found in the Mormon religion is that there "is opposition in all things." While many people do not feel that they have experienced God in their life, most people I have met would readily agree that they have experienced darkness and evil. I certainly have been faced with many dark periods of life and know firsthand the depths of darkness. I also see on a daily basis the reality and spread of evil. Evil and darkness lead some to believe that God must not exist, but they lead me to find God and become more sure of his existence.
Many people I have talked to say they cannot believe in God because bad things happen. Yes, bad things do happen, but I firmly believe that our view of what is "bad" will be readily and quickly altered as our minds are opened up to the eternal nature of what is taking place on this earth. I believe in an all powerful God who can take all bad things and turn them into something good for us. I believe in an all powerful God who can remove the pain, suffering, and darkness associated with the bad and fill it with health, joy, and light.
Two simple experiences I have had illustrate how seeing a bigger picture can alter our perception of what is 'bad'. In high school, I enjoyed wrestling. I wrestled my sophomore year and was excited to start again my junior year. The coach had high expectations for me that year, and I was looking forward to working to go to the state wrestling competition. However, due to my class load that year, I did not have time to wrestle and complete all of my homework. I decided to wrestle anyways, and quickly fell behind in homework.
The first meet came and I started in my weight class in the varsity spot. Not more than two minutes into the match, I tore the ligament in my elbow and was out for the entire season. Due to a torn ligament, I couldn't do much besides homework, and so I was able to get good grades that year. Those grades enabled me to obtain scholarships to get through college, something that I probably would not have been otherwise able to afford to do. Looking back, I am grateful for the torn ligament as it gave me much more than wrestling would have. At that time though, there was intense pain, rehab, and disappointment, but it put me on a better track, one that I couldn't see at the time.
A second experience came when I was walking with my children to an appointment. One of them was refusing to walk for no reason that I could see. I was getting frustrated as we were going to be late. As I walked back to get the child refusing to walk and pull the child along, a car suddenly jumped the curb onto the sidewalk a little ways ahead of us, right about the spot where we would have been if we had been walking at normal pace. Seeing the car land on the sidewalk made all of my anger and frustration disappear in a second as I was suddenly grateful that we were not walking at normal pace. I often wonder in life how many 'cars' were on the sidewalk, or path, ahead in life, but which I simply never saw. One day, I am confident I will see the full picture, and at that day much of my frustration will turn to appreciation.
To be clear, I do not profess that all "bad" experiences are good, which is one reason why Christ offers healing to us through his atonement. However, I am certain that many things we view as bad or troublesome will no longer be viewed that way when we see the big picture of life. Being a Mormon helps me expand my perspective far beyond what I normally would as I reach into the pre-mortal and post-mortal worlds to gain a greater appreciation and understanding for the things of this life. This view helps me be grateful and put things into the proper perspective.
Ultimately, I fully believe the Mormon teachings that experiencing the good and bad of life educates us in a way impossible to replicate. The classroom can only go so far, and personal experience becomes the best educator as well as the best testing scenarios to see how well we internalized what we have been taught. As I turn to God and his Gospel as revealed to past and present Prophets, my mind is opened to many possibilities and my heart is changed to better understand how God can take bad things and make them good things for us. In short, Mormonism expands my outlook on and deepens my appreciation for life in a way that nothing else has come close to doing.
Ultimately, I fully embrace the teachings in the Mormon Church that I can one day become like God. This fills me with hope and purpose in life as it ingrains two principles into me - one, that I am a child of God and therefore have infinite worth, and two, that I have much to look forward to in life as I will always be able to progress. We believe that God will always be our God and Father, but that He will share all that he has with those who choose to abide by His requirements. While His mercy will save us all from death, His justice requires that we learn to abide by certain principles in order to be able to receive all that He has. Therefore, Mormonism encourages me to become better each day and offers me a purpose and reason to look outside the pleasures of the moment to see the worth of working today for a better tomorrow, or of working in this life to build a better eternity.
In addition to the ultimate picture produced by the Mormon faith, I have had God's Spirit testify to me of the truth of the Mormon Church, which is really the Church of Jesus Christ as Mormon is simply a nickname, not an official name. The Mormon religion fully teaches that God will speak to both our mind and heart to give us confirmation of His truth, and I have had such experiences, where I can know in my mind and feel in my heart what is true. The Book of Mormon extends a promise to everyone that they can also know, if they diligently seek and study these things.
Ultimately, you could say I am Mormon because I dare to believe in great things. I dare to believe that I can be a father to my children and a husband to my wife for eternity. I dare to believe that God provided a way for me to move past my mistakes and follies in life. I dare to believe that God is both just and merciful with ways to fully provide for both. I dare to believe that I can know truth. I dare to believe that I am an eternal being, one of great worth, even to God. I dare to believe that I can progress, improve, learn, and grow and ultimately become like God. I dare to believe that the darkness of today is temporary and that it can be replaced with the light of tomorrow. In short, I am Mormon because I dare to believe we are literally a Child of God and that we are capable of growing up to be like Him.